Photos by Kevin Nagle
The Bryant Hornets freshman football team has never lost a season-opening game with Kenny Horn as the head coach and the 2016 version of the team was not about to let it happen on their watch as they proceeded to dominate a Little Rock McClellan Lions freshman team that had some ability.
Bryant rolled to a 39-0 lead through three quarters and wound up with a 46-12 victory.
Horn, now in his ninth season as head coach, is 8-0-1 in season-openers with a tie in 2012 that was marred by torrential rains. Overall, Bryant freshman teams haven’t lost a lid-lifter since 1996.
Ahmad Adams rushed for three touchdowns and caught a TD pass from Jake Meaders. It was one of two scoring strikes by the Bryant quarterback. Gavin Wells caught the second touchdown toss.
Bryant amassed 314 yards of total offense on just 24 plays.
Meanwhile, at the point when the Hornets led 39-0, McClellan had mustered just 45 yards of total offense.
“Physical and they didn’t give up many big plays, no dumb penalties, made adjustments when we had to real quick,” Horn said of the D. “I thought they played well, tackled well. I was a little worried about our open-field tackling but we broke down, made tackles.”
The coach came into the game concerned about his offensive line as well but noted, “Except for some trouble with some snaps, we were pretty clean up front, not many busts, not a lot of penalties. I think we’re going to be okay up front. I like what we did. I like how we protected the quarterback and we were pretty physical up front.”
Much of the time, the line included center Taylor Martin, guards Brantley Thomas and Emil Pritchard, and tackles Tanner Wilson and Hudson Trusty.
“We’ve got some guys that can do some things with the football,” he said of his skill players. “We’re going to try to be as balanced as we can, throwing it and running it. I’d like to be a little heavier running it. We’ve got a pretty good running back. We’ll see how it works out.”
Horn got what he wanted with 18 rushing plays and 10 passes.
Adams only carried the ball seven times but rumbled for 71 yards. His first touchdown run was set up by an 18-yard scamper by Wells to start the game and, later, a sparkling catch by Wells on a pass from Meaders for 37 yards. Wells went up between two defenders and came down with it.
After Adams scored, Wells added a two-point conversion keeper.
The Lions managed their lone first down of the first half on their initial possession but turned it over on downs after reaching their own 42.
That gave the Hornets great field position but a holding penalty undermined their effort. Wells punted McClellan back to its 24 and the defense allowed 5 yards on three runs, forcing a return kick.
From their own 31, the Hornets drove to paydirt. The 43-yard catch and run by Adams did most of the damage.
Down 14-0, things went from bad to worse for the Lions. On their first play at their own 28, quarterback Braelon Adams fumbled and David Shifflet recovered for Bryant.
On the very next snap, Adams laced his way to the end zone from 24 yards out to make it 20-0 with 3:31 left in the half.
And they weren’t finished yet.
McClellan’s subsequent series lost yardage on two plays including a third-down run that was stopped for a loss of 3 by Bryant’s Catrell Wallace.
As short punt gave Bryant the ball at its own 39 with 1:24 left in the half. Meaders hit Wells for 23 yards and, a play later, found Wallace with a deep throw. It was a jump ball between Wallace and a Lions defender. Wallace showed his hops and hauled it down at the McClellan 14.
On the next play, Meaders and Wells hooked up again for the score with 0:23 showing. Bryant led 26-0.
The second half started with McClellan’s longest run from scrimmage, a 15-yard slash by Brandon Williams. But the Hornets knocked the ball loose and Thomas pounced.
Just 36 yards away from more points, the Hornets needed just two plays. Adams was stopped for no gain on first down but, on a second try, dashed 36 yards. It would be his last carry of the night.
A nice kickoff return gave McClellan good field position at its own 46 and when Braelon Adams kept for 7 yards, the Lions were in Bryant territory. But they stalled there and when a fourth-down pass fell incomplete, Bryant took over.
It took three plays to cover the distance to the goal line. Meaders picked up 23 yards on a nifty keeper. Dalen McDonald lashed 12 yards and, after a procedure penalty put the ball on the 16, McDonald sliced through the Lions defense for another touchdown. Grayson Scoles added the extra point to make it 39-0.
With Bryant filtering in reserves, McClellan hit two big pass plays. The first was a 66-yard play from Braelon Adams to Johnnie White. The hustle of Christian Cain prevented the touchdown as he caught up with White and drove him down at the 3. It took three snaps from there but Braelon Adams eventually scored from the 1 to break the goose egg for McClellan on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Later, that duo connected for 64 yards and a touchdown.
On the ensuing kickoff, however, Cain picked up a squibber and bolted 57 yards for a touchdown to put the icing on the victory cake. Scoles converted and the final score was on the board.
The Lions hit a third long pass and the same combo did the trick. It went for 51 yards. Drake Findley made a touchdown-saving tackle at the Bryant 14 and, two passes later, the game concluded.
“Good win,” acknowledged Horn. “It is promising. We’ll start conference next week and see what happens.”
Bryant hosts Cabot North, usually a very tough assignment, next Thursday.