Hornets make quick work of Hall
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
LITTLE ROCK — In his first season as a running back, senior Brandon Butler leads the Bryant Hornets in rushing. Going into the team’s seventh game, a conference tilt against Little Rock Hall’s Warriors at Scott Field, Butler had picked up almost 300 yards on just over carries but he had yet to score a touchdown.
That no longer is the case as Butler not only got his first TD, he scored three times in the Hornets’ 35-0 romp over the Warriors on Friday, Oct. 15.
No letdown this time. Earlier in the season, the Hornets had forged an emotional win against highly-regarded Russellville on their first road trip only to lose the next week in bitterly disappointing fashion to Little Rock Catholic. This time, Hall was the game after — after the Hornets’ monumental victory over No. 1-ranked Little Rock Central.
The victory, by the way, lifted the Hornets into a first-place tie in the AAAAA-Central Conference thanks to another unexpected win by the upstart Catholic Rockets over North Little Rock. Bryant, Central, Catholic and North Little Rock all have 3-1 league marks going into the final three weeks of the season.
The Hornets gave the Warriors little hope of sticking around when they burst out to a 21-0 lead in the first eight minutes of the game.
On the opening kickoff, Hall was pinned down deep in its own end and the Bryant defense kept them there thanks to a stop for a five-yard loss by Colby Landers and Travis Queck on a second down play.
The Warriors punted out of their own end zone and Bryant started its first offensive possession at the Hall 42. With junior quarterback Anthony Mask completing a pair of passes to Blake Zuber, the Hornets reached the 11. A play later, Mask found Richie Wood for the touchdown.
Wood, who quietly set a new school record for touchdown receptions in a career, now has 24. After leading the team in scoring last season with 86 points, he now has 44 points this year, tops on the squad.
Todd Bryan kicked the extra point and the Hornets had a 7-0 lead less than four minutes into the game. Their second score came moments later. Hall, facing a third-and-10 at its own 20, had quarterback James Richardson rolling out to pass when Bryant’s Jonathan Holt belted him. The football came loose and Landers was there to scoop it up and score untouched.
Bryan booted it to 14-0.
Hall’s third possession didn’t produce much either. This time, a third-down pass by Richardson was intercepted by Hunter Nugent at the Warriors 34.
A 15-yard run by Zuber was followed by an 18-yard pass from Mask to Wood. From the 1, Butler got his first TD with 4:01 left in the quarter.
Bryan’s kick made it 21-0.
To that point, Hall’s net offense amounted to minus-13 yards with no first downs.
The Warriors’ next possession, aided by a personal foul penalty (an arguable late hit) reached the Bryant 49. On the next play, however, Bryant linebacker Corey Caldwell dropped Richardson for a 7-yard loss. After running back Mario Smith ran for a gain of 10, Holt and Landers foiled a fourth-and-2 play by tackling Richardson for a 5-yard loss.
The Hornets took over and appeared to be on their way to another score after Zach Kellum burst for 24 yards to the Hall 25, but an interception by Kyle Newman at the 12 ended the threat.
The Bryant offense wasn’t quite as crisp the rest of the half. But the defense continued to be stingy. Hall made one foray into Bryant territory when Richardson’s towering pass was hauled in by Newman for a pickup of 35 yards to the Bryant 38. The Warriors were only able to pick up 4 more yards in four plays after that and Bryant took over on downs with 3:19 left in the half.
With Mask and Zuber teaming up for completions of 43 and 10 yards, the Hornets got into field goal range but a problem with the snap-hold exchange spoiled Bryan’s attempt with 1:26 left in the half.
The Hornets settled for a 21-0 halftime lead.
A good return of the second half kickoff by Zach Kitchens gave Bryant starting field position at its 49 but, on the first play, a fumble cost them possession. Hall, however, got nowhere. Caldwell dropped running back Phillip Morgan for a loss on second down and Kitchens knocked a pass away on third and the Warriors were forced to punt.
In turn, the Hornets kicked it in on offense again. Mask and Wood combined on a 29-yard pass play. A 24-yard hook-up from Mask to Dustin Holland got 24 more to set up Butler’s 23-yard rumble for his second TD of the game.
Travis Cockerham knocked the extra point through to make it 28-0.
An interception by Zach Sanders set up the Hornets final touchdown. Sanders returned it to the Hall 27 and, a play later, Butler dashed to paydirt once again.
The mercy rule was instituted at that point with the clock running except for timeouts and injuries.
With reserves playing on both sides of the ball for the Hornets, they maintained the shutout. An interception by senior Zach Hannahs put Bryant in scoring position again. Kellum had runs of 22 and 5 yards to the 7 where the drive bogged down. But a low snap undermined Bryan’s field goal attempt from there and the score remained 35-0 going into the fourth quarter.
Hall drove to the Bryant 25 thanks in large part to a 45-yard pass from Richardson to Newman. An illegal block pushed them back before Aaron Hodges came up with the Hornets’ fourth pick of the game.
The Warriors got one more shot at scoring and appeared to have a TD with just over a minute left. But the 39-yard pass play was called back because receiver Genesis Cole had pushed off to get free of Hodges and make the catch.
A 40-yard connection from Richardson to Newman got the Warriors to the 15 but despite using all three of their timeouts, they were unable to get in the end zone.
The shutout was the second of the season for the Hornets. It was the third time the defense had held an opponent scoreless (Benton got a safety in the season opener.) Bryant, now 6-1, is giving up an average of just under 10 points a game, a school record pace.