PEARCY — The Lake Hamilton Wolves eighth grade team stopped two forays into the red zone — including one that reached the 2 — by the Bryant Blue Hornets of Bethel Middle School and came from behind for a 12-8 victory Thursday night.
Both Hornets’ drives came in response to Lake Hamilton touchdowns. The first came after the Wolves’ game-opening drive for a touchdown that was on the verge of being halted at the Bethel 40. Facing a fourth-and-5, the Wolves faked a handoff into the line and quarterback Bradyn Clark lofted a pass down the middle to teammate Braden Braughton, who gained a step on the defense with the play action. The play went the distance to make it 6-0.
In response, the Hornets drove to the 2 from their own 40. Key plays included an 18-yard scamper by quarterback Jake Meaders and an 11-yard burst by Dalen McDonald. Meaders hit Jaeger Burks for 11 yards to the 6. After a loss on first down there, Meaders tossed to Ethan Loomis to the 2.
But a fumble on third down cost the Hornets a yard then Meaders was stopped for no gain on fourth down and Lake Hamilton took over.
The Wolves drove to the Bryant 41 but Clark faded back to pass under pressure and was tagged by Tanner Wilson as he was throwing. The ball went backwards and, fortunately for Clark, sailed out of bounds behind him. Ruled a lateral or a fumble, the play cost the Wolves 12 yards, which they couldn’t overcome.
The Hornets got the ball back with 1:13 left in the half and McDonald slashed for 13 yards but a pair of incomplete passes and a sack left them facing a fourth-and-14 with time running out. Bethel head coach Shane Clancy let the clock run down to :01.5 and called a timeout to take one last shot. Meaders got his pass away but it was picked off by Clark and returned to the Bryant 17 to end the half.
The Wolves, who appeared to be determined to make Bryant Blue pass, putting eight in the box and blitzing almost every play, gave up an 11-yard keeper by Meaders to start the second half but, from there, the Hornets went backwards and were forced to punt.
Though the punt netted just 7 yards, the defense got the ball back moments later when Daylan Land pounced on a fumble caused by David Shifflet as he sacked Clark.
This time, the Hornets cashed in. Meaders sprinted for 20 yards and, after a loss, got 5 more. He then completed a 14-yard pass to Loomis and connected again with him for 5 to the 12.
On second down, Meaders was hemmed in for a 3-yard loss but, on third-and-3, he scrambled deftly to keep the play alive and found Ryan Riedmueller at the 5. Riedmueller lunged for the goal line and stretched the ball out over the goal line. The ball came loose but instead of ruling that the fumble was caused by the ground and signaling a touchdown, the officials let the play continue. Riedmueller, though, scrambled after the ball and covered it for the official touchdown, tying the game 6-6.
And when Meaders passed to Loomis for the two-point conversion, the Hornets had an 8-6 lead with 6:45 left in the game.
On the ensuing kickoff, Loomis made a touchdown-saving tackle as Lake Hamilton’s Braughton broke clear near midfield.
The drive came down to a third-and-9 at the Bryant 32. On a speed sweep, the Wolves’ Latrell Young picked up the first down and might’ve scored if not for a shoestring tackle by Riedmueller.
From the 21, a running play was stuffed by the Hornets but, on the next play, the play-action pass that had gone for points in the first quarter, worked again as Clark hit Braughton on a post route for a touchdown. A run for two failed but the Wolves had a 12-8 lead with 3:20 to go.
The Hornets gave themselves a chance to pull out the win. A strong return of a short kickoff by Kaden Fullbright gave them field position at the 50. Meaders and Riedmueller connected for a 34-yard pass completion.
But, from the Lake Hamilton 16, Meaders scrambled for 2 yards then had three consecutive passes fall incomplete, the last knocked away by Young.
Lake Hamilton took over at its own 14 and, thought the Hornets used all of its timeouts, picked up a first down to close out the victory.
Now 1-1, Bethel returns to action on Thursday, Sept. 24, at home against one of the North Little Rock middle school teams.