Bryant freshman knock off Stingers to snap skid
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
SHERIDAN — Whether he got a piece of the ball or just created enough of a distraction, freshman cornerback Reid Prescott prevented Sheridan’s Cameron Holland from catching a pass in the right front corner of the end zone on a fourth-down play with 36 left in the game. With that, the Bryant Hornets freshman team knocked off Sheridan’s Stingers, 14-7, helping to spoil the Stingers’ faint hopes of a championship.
The win snapped a two-game losing streak for the Hornets, both heartbreakers.
“It was, if anything, a win to just kind of get back on track,” stated Bryant coach Jason Hay. “We’ve had two really close losses at home. When you start out 3-1 and you have two losses right in a row at home, you wonder how the kids are going to react. We told them we weren’t going to let up on them in practice. We were going to treat them like we were 6-0 going into it. We had a good week, put in some new plays, changed up a little here and there. More than anything, I’m just happy for the kids, that they came through.”
All the scoring was done in the second quarter. In the second half, the Hornets’ defense had held Sheridan to one first down until the Stingers put together a last-ditch drive starting with 3:52 left in the game. They drove from their 24 to the Bryant 12. On first down there, Joey Melhorn stopped Sheridan’s Tyler Cole for no gain. A second down pass from Eric Eggburn to Holland reached the 6 but, a third-down run by Cole was stopped for a loss of a yard by Trey Sowell. That set up the pivotal play, a fourth-and-5 from the 7. Eggburn rolled right and found Holland only to have Prescott break it up. Even with Prescott’s play, Holland almost caught the ricochet as it fell to the ground.
After the Hornets took over, Sheridan used its final timeout but it wasn’t enough as Bryant ate up the final :36 for the win.
Sheridan ran twice as many offensive plays as the Hornets and finished with 224 yards of total offense to Bryant’s 155. The Hornets’ defense bent but only broke once. Offensively, they hit a pair of big pass plays for touchdowns and they moved the ball just enough with a ground game that utilized the option for the first time this season.
“We’re kind of trying to re-assert the running game,” Hay noted. “We’d gotten away from that. We’ve got two good running backs in (Brennan) Bullock and (Chris) Arnold. We saw a few things on tape we thought we could probably use against (Sheridan), using that option.
“We’re trying to keep people off-guard,” he continued. “We’ve been spreading out so much. (Sheridan) was leaving no backside force so they were just basically daring you to do it. That’s the way we came into the game and I think if we had run it a little bit more . . . but an option’s hard to do. We’re not an option team.
“Defensively, we did well and, offensively, the stats weren’t real stellar but we ran the ball a little bit more and ran the clock and grinded it out. Of course, a trick play here and there never hurts either.”
Indeed, the difference in the game proved to be a trick play. With the game tied at 7 late in the first half, the Hornets got a great kickoff return from Arnold on a fake reverse. Sheridan’s last defender forced Arnold out of bounds at the Stingers’ 43 with 1:25 left. The offense came onto the field with a few linemen around the ball in front of quarterback Jimi Easterling and the rest of the linemen in front of flanker Sergio Arias near the left sideline. Easterling took the snap while Sheridan’s defense scrambled to cover everything. He threw a lateral to Arias who, in turn, threw deep to Arnold behind the Sheridan secondary for the touchdown.
Despite the fact that a penalty moved the Hornets back 5 yards on the extra point, Arias booted it through to make it 14-7 with 1:15 left in the half.
Sheridan made a bid to answer, driving from its own 36 to the Bryant 30, keyed by a 24-yard pass from Eggburn to Josh Young. A pair of incompletions followed, however, and a third-down swing pass to Cole was wiped out for no gain by Blake Heil as the half ended.
The Stingers got a big chance to score at the start of the game. A fumble on the opening kickoff return was recovered by Sheridan at the Bryant 36. But the Hornets’ defense held. On third-and-3, Matt Norton and Tyler Groves dropped Eggburn for a loss and, on fourth-and-6, Young was stopped short of a first down by Norton.
The Hornets picked up one first down before having to punt. Sheridan drove from its own 39 to the Bryant 47 where, on a fourth-and-6, the Stingers faked a punt only to have a pass fall incomplete.
Bryant took over at its own 47 and, a play later, as the second quarter began, Easterling found Brandon Parish, who was uncovered, down the right sideline for a 53-yard touchdown pass.
The two teams traded punts before Sheridan put together its scoring drive. The Stingers drove from their 26 in nine plays, keyed by a 39-yard run by Young. On first-and-goal at the 4, Melhorn dropped Sheridan’s Cody Guthrie for a loss at the 6 but, on the next play, Cole scored to make it 7-7.
In the third quarter, Bryant forced a Sheridan punt then drove into Stingers territory with Bullock contributing a 10-yard run. But a third-down pass was intercepted at the Sheridan 22.
The Stingers moved to the 42 where, on a second-and-1, Eggburn dropped the snap as Norton crashed in. The Stingers retained possession but lost 6 yards on the play and couldn’t recover.
After a punt, the Hornets started to move the ball. Arias had a 10-yard run on a reverse then Bullock took a pitch off the option for 18. A play later, however, a procedure penalty knocked the Hornets off track and they eventually had to punt it back, setting up the dramatic finish.
“I was just real proud of the kids,” Hay declared.
Now 4-3 overall and 2-3 in the South Division of the Central Arkansas Conference, the Hornets have set their sites on finishing as high as a tie for second. They host Cabot South on Thursday, Oct. 19, before finishing the regular season at Benton on Oct. 26.