Griffith sparks Mustangs past Kittens
EDITOR’S NOTE: Because the look back at each day in Bryant athletic history has been so favorably received during the time when there was no sports during the COVID-19 shutdown, BryantDaily.com will continueposting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on BryantDaily.com (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).
By ROB PATRICK
The Bryant Junior High Mustangs were hoping to get by the winless Conway Blue Wampus Kittens without using quarterback Bryan Griffith. But when the Mustangs struggled offensively early in the game Thursday, Oct. 11, at Bryant Stadium, Griffith, with a tender shoulder, joined the fray and led the team to a 39-0 romp.
Griffith’s three touchdown passes gave him 16 on the season as the Mustangs improved to 6-1 overall, 2-1 in the South Division of the Central Arkansas Conference. Conway Blue is 0-7 and 0-3. The Kittens have been unable to score more than 7 points in a game this season.
Griffith led the Mustangs on four consecutive touchdown drives split between the end of the second quarter and the early third quarter to blow open a game that Bryant led just 3-0 to that point.
The Kittens were holding their own early in the game. They went nowhere on the opening possession of the game and fumbled at their own 15. Bryant’s Kevin Carr recovered.
But the Mustangs’ offense seemed out of sync and they had to settle for a 34-yard field goal by Todd Bryan.
Conway came back with a solid drive behind the running of Billy Norman. It also helped that the Mustangs were flagged for pass interference on a third-and-15 from the Bryant 41. Two plays later, however, Hunter Nugent intercepted a pass in the end zone to keep it 3-0.
A personal foul penalty contributed to the Mustangs’ continued frustration on offense and they were forced to punt from their own 8.
The Kittens tried an unusual defensive scheme against the Bryant. Knowing that the Mustangs head coach Scott Neathery watch to see how the defense sets up to determine what play to call as the teams line up without a huddle, the Kittens defenders milled around until after the play was signaled in then jumped into position before the snap.
It was effective for awhile until Griffith just started taking the snap before the defense was set and running a quarterback sneak. The ground game began to click and, without throwing a pass, the Mustangs drove 64 yards in nine plays, for their first touchdown. Landon Bullock, who contributed a 12-yard run early in the drive, eventually scored from 7 yards out with 1:23 left in the half. Griffith added an 11-yard run and Bryan scampered 18 yards along the way.
The defense then stepped up and pushed Conway back, forcing a punt with :40 left.
A short kick gave Bryant possession at the Conway 34. After the teams traded penalties — the half was pockmarked with penalties, 12 between the two teams — the Mustangs executed the old hook and ladder play. Griffith passed into the flat to Josh Rice, who pitched back to Bryan who was trailing the play. Bryan skirted the sideline for what proved to be a 34-yard touchdown play.
Bryan’s extra point made it 17-0 at the half.
The second half began with a pair of Bryant running plays then Griffith faked the run and found Ritchie Wood streaking down the right boundary behind the Conway defense for a 52-yard strike.
The Kittens, who were held to 44 yards of offense — all on the ground — ran three plays and lost 7 yards as B.J. Thompson, Kyle Sterling and Brett Solonycze each made stops for losses. A short punt gave the Mustangs the ball back at the Conway 37.
On the first play from there, the Mustangs pulled out a trick play that threatened to work but didn’t the week before in their 21-20 overtime loss to Conway White. Griffith pitched to eighth-grade quarterback Anthony Mask who had lined up at wide receiver, on a reverse. Mask then threw a lateral back to Griffith, who threw to a wide-open Bryan for another touchdown.
Bryan’s PAT made it 31-0.
The play drew the ire of the Conway coaching staff and they vented some of that season-long frustration across the field for the rest of the game and then again as the teams met after the game.
It didn’t help that the Bryant reserves continued to shackle the Kittens’ offense until the fourth quarter began. Up to that point, the Kittens’ offense had netted just 18 yards of offense. They were, however, able to drive from their own 12 to their 41. On a fourth-and-3, the Kittens lined up to punt. Ironically, that meant that many of Bryant’s first-team players returned to the field as the punt-return team. So, when the Kittens jumped into an offensive set to run a fake, the Mustangs smothered William Jarrett and Bryant took over at the 43 with 2:58 left to play.
A 22-yard dash by Zack Kellum put the Mustangs on the 21 then quarterback Rett Hatcher noticed an opening in the Conway defense, checked off the running play the Mustangs were set to run and a 21-yard touchdown pass to Travis Queck resulted.
“It’s one of those times you don’t really want to pass the ball,” noted Bryant head coach Scott Neathery. “But, gosh, Rett came up to the line of scrimmage and read the defense, just like he’s supposed to, and checked off just like he’s taught to and it worked. It’s hard to be upset about that. He did a good job.”
The Mustangs were set to travel to Sheridan for a battle for second place in the South Division this Thursday. The winner would still have an outside chance at the division title.