Hornets snap skid by cracking Cardinals
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
Two touchdowns a game just wasn’t getting it done for the Bryant Hornets.
Due to injuries that had sapped the team’s depth, particularly on defense, the Hornets had gone to a more controlled offense, eschewing the wide-open, spread-out attack that had produced so well over the last two years in hopes of slowing the game down, shortening it to help the defense stay fresh and the other team’s offense on the sidelines too.
But that strategy, as well-intentioned as it was, backfired for the Hornets who implemented the plan as the AAAAA-South Conference season began. Three losses — all narrow defeats — followed and, in each, the Hornets were unable to score more than two touchdowns (though they had two touchdowns and a field goal in a loss at Pine Bluff).
“Looking back, I think by doing that, we’ve slowed ourselves down more than the other team,” allowed Hornets head coach Daryl Patton, prior to his team’s Homecoming game against the Camden Fairview Cardinals Friday night. “Sixteen points against Pine Bluff, 13 against Sheridan, 12 against El Dorado. We just haven’t been getting enough touches. We practiced all summer, all last spring on running a no-huddle, hurry-up offense. The first two weeks of the season we run the no-huddle, hurry-up. We’re going to go back to it. We want to move at a faster pace. We want to get the ball into our playmakers’ hands and try to put points on the board.”
The result? After falling behind 17-7, the Hornets put together a 38-0 blitz to snap their four-game skid with a 45-17 triumph that not only featured a rejuvenated offense but a defense that appeared to feed off that energy, as well.
Actually, it was the defense that Patton credited with turning the game around and sparking the offense.
“Boy, they were fired up,” he noted.
Though the Hornets didn’t take the lead until early in the third quarter, the reversal began to develop late in the first half. Trailing 17-7, the Hornets had a drive reach the Fairview 20 before a sack, a dropped pass and a bad snap that resulted in a loss of 29 yards and a fumble thwarted the effort.
Fairview gained possession at the Bryant 46 with a chance to extend the lead. But Fairview’s first play, a run by fullback Keith Moore lost three yards as the Hornets’ defense swarmed. After an incomplete pass, another run was stopped for a loss of one. A face mask penalty, however, gave the Cardinals another chance on third down and, this time, quarterback Darrell Atkins scrambled for 12 yards and a first.
Again, though, the Hornets toughened up. Three plays netted one yard and, on a fourth-and-nine at the 32, Fairview halfback Willie Randall was stopped short and the Hornets regained possession with 1:52 left in the half.
Buoyed by that effort, the Hornets got back into gear on offense. A shovel pass to Matt White immediately resulted in a 39-yard pick-up. Quarterback Jeramie Wooten found White again for 24 yards to the 7. Two White carries reached the 1 and, from there, Mark Medlin scored with under :30 left in the half.
Nick Harbert kicked it to 17-14 and the momentum had turned.
And it got another boost. The Hornets attempted an on-side kick and had a chance to recover the ball, but it slipped out of bounds before anyone could control it and Fairview gained possession at its own 48 with :19 left in the half.
The Cardinals, looking for a last-second score, had Atkins back to throw but Bryant’s Andy Summers, Matt Lewis and Shawn Reynolds tracked him down for a nine-yard sack to end the half.
It also ended Atkins’ night as he sprained an ankle trying to avoid the hit. After rushing for what turned out to be a team-high (for the game) 56 yards and hitting 5-of-7 passes for 70 yards, Atkins would not return.
The second half began with a 51-yard return of the kickoff by Josh Farmer, allowing the Hornets to go on the offensive at the Fairview 34. Another shovel pass to White picked up 25 then Medlin, on a flanker reverse, scored on a 9-yard run to give Bryant the lead.
“The defense played well, then the special teams got us going with the kickoff return,” Patton noted. “Our offensive line blocked better and I thought Jeramie stepped up and threw the ball well.”
For Wooten, it all had to be especially sweet. A senior that has worked for his turn to start has been through some ups and downs, in and out of the lineup and through the offensive changes this season but has never wavered in his dedication to the team. In what Patton endorsed as his finest hour to date, Wooten led the offense hitting 15 of 23 passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns.
“You know, it’s tough when you’re a senior and there’s another quarterback that’s getting some playing time,” Patton commented. “But Jeramie has handled it like a champion. Tonight, he stepped up and made the plays when he had to, threw the ball well and made good decisions. He was a leader.”
Six different Hornets caught passes and, as Patton and his coaches reached into the bag of trick plays, four different Hornets threw them.
Medlin, a senior who came into the game with just one varsity touchdown in his career, scored four times against Fairview.
Despite the return to form by the Hornets’ offense, it didn’t take right away. They failed to pick up a first down in the first quarter and Fairview, led by Atkins, built a 10-0 lead. A fumble, one of eight by the Cardinals and one of only two they lost, recovered by Bryant’s Jason Rose ended the first drive of the game. Later, however, the Cardinals drove 71 yards in four plays to get on the board. Atkins and Moore hooked up on a 45-yard touchdown pass.
Fairview was on the march again later in the quarter and reached the Bryant 1. But a motion penalty pushed the Cardinals back and the Hornet defense took advantage. Fairview had to settle for a 20-yard field goal by Eric Howard.
As the second quarter began, the Hornets got moving on offense. White carried four times in a row and flashed for 36 yards to the Fairview 26. The march appeared to be stalled at the 20, but Wooten made a tough throw sprinting to his left that Medlin snagged in splendid fashion. Medlin reached the 4 and, after a face mask penalty moved the ball to the 2, Wooten and Medlin hooked up again on a third down play for the 1-yard touchdown pass.
On the ensuing kickoff, however, Davis Dumas streaked 97 yards up the right sideline for an answering touchdown to make it 17-7.
But that was the last the Cardinals would score. In fact, in the second half, Fairview went without a first down until early in the fourth quarter. By then, Bryant had its 45-17 lead.
Once again, the third quarter was golden for the Hornets. They scored 28 points. For the season, Bryant has outscored its opponents 75-0 in the third quarter. Against Fairview, counting the late first-half TD drive, the Hornets scored on six consecutive possessions.
After taking the lead and forcing a short punt, the Hornets drove 41 yards in four plays. The key was a flanker reverse pass in which sophomore B.J. Wood, a quarterback as a freshman, completed a 34-yard toss to Farmer. From the 11, two runs by Medlin found paydirt.
Fairview, with sophomore quarterback Justin Wylie in the game, netted three yards on its next possession and another short punt gave Bryant good field position again.
This time, they traveled 43 yards in five plays. A 26-yard pass from Wooten to Medlin kick-started the drive. Wooten was 4-for-4 on the drive. His 14-yard pass to Matt Brown, who caught six passes for 80 yards in the game, reached the 13. Wooten then found Wood in the left flat and Wood scampered into the end zone for the touchdown.
Harbert, perfect on the night with six extra points and a field goal, booted it to 35-17. The Bryant kicker also played a big roll in the comeback with his deep kickoffs, two of which resulted in touchbacks. And on the others, the Hornets’ coverage caught Fairview at its own 18 twice and its own 14 once.
Fairview’s next punt was partially blocked as Kevin Littleton and Wood got through. Again, the Hornets started a drive in Fairview territory. They went 45 yards in another five plays. Wooten was 3-for-4 on the march hitting Brown for 25, Medlin for 3 then Brown again for the 13-yard touchdown.
With 1:48 left in the third quarter, Bryant led 42-17.
Fairview, starting at its own 14, ran two plays and fumbled. Littleton recovered for Bryant at the 18. With sophomore Lance Parker on in relief of Wooten, the Hornets got to the 15 where Harbert banged through a 33-yard field goal to set the final score.
Alex Pudinas intercepted a pass to stop Fairview’s best fourth-quarter threat. Later, Patrick McBride’s hit on Wylie forced a fumble on a fourth-down play that ended another Fairview possession.
The win improved the Hornets to 3-4 overall and 1-3 in conference play. It kept the Hornets’ hopes of a return to the Class AAAAA playoffs alive. With wins over their final three opponents, beginning at Lake Hamilton (4-3, 1-3) this Friday, they could manage it.
“We’re getting some guys back (from injury),” noted Patton. “(Flanker) Jonathan Jameson came back and got in a few plays. (Offensive lineman) Jeremy Defrese has been cleared and he’ll be back full strength this week. I think the kids realize we’re not dead yet. We’re still breathing.”