PEARCY — After trailing 14-0 before they even had one offensive snap, the Bryant Hornets freshman team rallied to lead 16-14 before the half was over then came back again to lead 24-20 going into the fourth quarter. But the Lake Hamilton Wolves scored a go-ahead touchdown with 1:16 left to play and, though they threatened in the final minute, the Hornets wound up absorbing their first loss of the season, 28-24, on Thursday night.
Bryant’s final drive was keyed by a 35-yard completion from Randy Thomas to K.J. Terry that reached the Lake Hamilton 23 with :38.1 showing. Out of timeouts, the Hornets had to keep throwing. But the next four plays were all incomplete aerials and the Wolves took over on downs with :18.4 to go.
Thomas had scored all three Hornets touchdowns with a pair of long electrifying runs and a 1-yard sneak. Jaylon Dickson executed the options out of the “swinging gate” formation for all three two-point conversions, throwing for two and running in one.
For the Wolves, quarterback Brennon Gibson threw for two scores and ran in the game-winner on a 5-yard keeper.
On the game’s opening series, Lake Hamilton was immediately hit with a holding penalty that marked them back to its own 17. Josh Salguerio stopped running back Andrew Martin for a loss and the Wolves faced a second-and-24 at their own 16.
But Gibson went deep to tight end Kanaan Williams for a 56-yard gain to get out of the hole.
Williams caught four passes in the game for 115 yards and a touchdown.
Burly tailback Tre Murphy eventually scored to cap the drive from 2 yards out but a pass for a two-point conversion failed.
On the ensuing kickoff, Lake Hamilton kicker Hunter Henthorn mis-hit the ball and popped it up. And when the Hornets tried to field the kick, it was muffed and the Wolves’ Ray Hamp recovered at the Bryant 38.
The Hornets’ defense, with Xavion Jackson and Jakob Neel dropped Martin for a loss, forced a fourth-and-6. Gibson ran a power sweep and picked up the first down and more. The 21-yard run put the Wolves in position to score, which they did on the next snap on Gibson’s toss to Williams.
Murphy muscled in for the conversion and the Hornets found themselves down 14-0.
Determined to make Bryant beat them in the air, the Wolves sent seven defenders into the line of scrimmage on almost every play. After being pushed back by a holding penalty on first down then being dropped for a loss, the Hornets obliged and Thomas went deep to Andrew Hayes, who made a splendid catch for a 44-yard gain.
But moments later, the Hornets faced a fourth-and-15 at the Wolves’ 42. Thomas rolled right then turned on the jets and wove his way through the Lake Hamilton defense, going the distance for the touchdown. Dickson ran in the two-point conversion and the lead was cut to 14-8.
And the Wolves’ offense went backwards on its subsequent series. Alex White dropped Gibson for a loss on first down and, after Hayes broke up a pass, Gibson threw a swing pass to Jackson Galster that Wyatt Hoyt sniffed out, making the tackle for a loss of 7 yards.
A short punt gave the Hornets great field position at the Lake Hamilton 34 and, a play later, Thomas streaked 29 yards for a tying score. And when Dickson threw to Neel for the conversion, Bryant had a 16-14 lead with 2:31 left in the half.
But, shades of things to come, Lake Hamilton put together an answering drive to regain the upper hand. Martin’s 43-yard run on the first play was key.
The Hornets made a bid to stop the drive twice. They forced a third-and-10 from the Bryant 37 but Gibson found Williams for 26 yards to the 11. Two plays later, it was third-and-4 at the 5. This time, Gibson somehow got a pass through to Dalen Baldwin in the back left corner of the end zone on a play that appeared to be well defended.
The pass for the conversion fell incomplete but with :02.7 showing, the Wolves led 20-16.
To open the second half, the Hornets made a bid to regain the lead. Thomas had a 30-yard run and with Keethan Hudson picking up 10 yards on two totes, they reached the Lake Hamilton 3. A tough mark on Hudson’s 6-yard run to the 3 made it fourth-and-inches. Thomas tried to sneak for it but was stopped short and the Wolves took over.
It still led to a Bryant touchdown, however. Lake Hamilton narrowly missed being stopped for a safety then two more plays only to the Wolves to the 5. Henthorn came in to punt but, apparently thinking he had room to run for a first down, pulled the ball down and made a run for it.
But the Hornets were on it. He just barely got out of the end zone, avoiding a safety but Bryant gained possession at the Wolves 1. Thomas’ sneak produced this time and he scored with 1:10 left in the third quarter. And when Dickson threw to Terry for the conversion, the Hornets were back up 24-20.
The defense forced a three-and-out and Henthorn punted from his own 26 on the first play of the fourth quarter. He got a good roll and the Hornets regained possession at their own 26.
But they couldn’t muster a first down either. Thomas punted the Wolves back to their own 29 and, with 6:00 left, they started their game-winning drive. Once again, the Gibson-Williams connection proved vital. On a third-and-9 at the Bryant 49, the duo converted with a 20-yard completion.
Murphy bulled for 15 yards to the 14. He ran it to the 5 to set up a third-and-1. This time, Gibson kept and scored. The two-point conversion was a pass from Gibson to Williams, making it 28-24.
The Hornets, now 2-1, will try to get back on track next Thursday when they host North Little Rock.