Bryant freshmen hold off Cabot South, 12-8
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
You could understand why the Cabot South Junior Panthers decided to punt with just under six minutes to play against the Bryant Junior Hornets on Thursday, Oct. 19. Even though they trailed 12-8, they had held the Hornets without a first down in the second half. In fact, Bryant had been able to run just three plays on offense to that point, failing to pick up a first down when they were pinned deep in their own end. They figured to get the ball back with plenty of time to score.
As it turned out, however, the Hornets put together a time-eating drive that forced Cabot to use two of its timeouts. When it ended, Cabot finally got the ball back at its own 3 with just 1:25 left to play. And when Reid Prescott intercepted a pass with :16 left, the Hornets had held on for their second victory in a row.
Cabot faced a fourth-and-1 at the Bryant 47 and went for it. Despite the fact that quarterback Joseph Bryant fumbled the snap, he recovered in time to get the ball to Brandon Mahoney who broke 17 yards for an apparent first down. But the Panthers were flagged for being in motion, setting up a fourth-and-6 from their own 48 and the choice to punt instead of going for it again.
A short kick gave Bryant possession at its 29 with 5:22 to go. And a procedure penalty made it first-and-15 from the 24, just what Cabot would’ve wanted. But, after picking up just 2 yards on a quarterback keeper, Bryant’s Jimi Easterling completed a 15-yard pass to Brandon Parish to get out of the hole. A 9-yard connection with Sergio Arias followed and the Hornets were to midfield as precious time ticked away.
Three plays later, Cabot used its first timeout with 2:39 left and Bryant facing a third-and-10 from the Panthers 46. When play resumed, the Hornets deployed in an unbalanced line, brought a wide receiver in motion to put five potential receivers to the right. A penalty flag flew as Easterling passed downfield, looking for Parish, who made a splendid, finger-tip catch in full stride before running out of bounds at the Cabot 27.
After a conference, the officials waved off the flag and the Cabot coaching staff erupted in protest, believing that the Hornets had lined up illegally.
“We were in what we call a quad set with four receivers to the right,” explained Hornets coach Jason Hay. “Our receiver to the left was actually off the line of scrimmage. You’ve got to have seven men on the line of scrimmage. But what we do is, we put one (receiver) on the line just to block the right edge, basically. He turns into a wide tight end. We motion (the receiver to the left) across to the right and sprint out the quarterback. We can run a tackle-eligible off of that and have, but the other thing is we’ve basically got five people on one side of the ball. And it messes up a defense because they’re not ready for it.
“(The Cabot coaches) thought (the receiver to the left) was ineligible,” Hay continued. “They were saying we didn’t have enough men on the line of scrimmage because they were looking from the other side of the field and couldn’t see all the receivers to the right.”
The Hornets had actually run a play in that formation earlier in the game and the pass fell incomplete. The second time was a crucial completion.
“Brandon made a great catch to keep the drive going,” Hay acknowledged. “It was huge catch.”
It helped that Cabot’s coaches protested to the point that they were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, a 15-yard mark-off. A play later, Brennan Bullock appeared to score from the 12 but a holding penalty negated the play. So, the Hornets ate more time. A short pass to Chris Arnold was followed by a run of 3 yards by Bullock. On fourth-and-12 at the 14, Bullock nearly scored but was brought down at the 3, a yard away from a first down.
Cabot managed to drive to its 44 before Prescott, who knocked down a potential touchdown pass at the end of a 14-7 win at Sheridan the previous week, made his interception at the Bryant 32 to end it.
“We finally gave the defense some breathing room,” Hay said of his offense’s clutch fourth-quarter drive. “Brennan made a great run at the end and we almost got it in the end zone to finish it up on that. But we drove the ball, took time off the clock. We just did what we do. I know that Jimi can throw and we can catch and, a lot of times, it’s a matter of, can we block? People are sending every guy they can off the corner trying to stop us from sprinting out. We’re getting better at picking up and I think the o-line has done a better job of blocking. I think that’s opened it up. And when we can throw like we started doing then that spreads them out and we can run the ball a little bit more. We’re trying to be a little bit more balanced.
“And it’s been a defensive year for us,” he added. “They did great again. Then Reid — that’s twice in a row he’s saved us at the end of the game.”
The two teams traded punts to start the game. Bryant’s first possession stalled when Easterling’s 19 yards pass to Arias at the Cabot 30 was negated by a holding penalty.
Cabot started its second possession at its own 37, pounded out a first down but faced third-and-6 at the Bryant 48 when Joseph Bryant kept on the option and sprinted 48 yards down the right sideline for the game’s first score. Powell Bryant then added a run for 2 to make it 8-0 with :32 left in the first quarter.
Bryant, in turn, got good field position when Cabot’s onside kick rolled out of bounds before reaching the 50.
An 11-yard completion from Easterling to Arias was key to the drive early, converting a third-and-9. Moments later, Arnold broke a 16-yard run to the 13. But consecutive plays for losses had the Hornets facing a third-and-20 at the 23 when Easterling and Arias connected again for a touchdown with 5:04 left in the half.
A try for 2 failed, leaving it 8-6 in favor of Cabot.
In turn, the Panthers drove to the Bryant 46. After a holding penalty pushed them back, a fumble occurred and Joey Melhorn recovered for the Hornets at the 38. A trio of incompletions, however, left the Hornets facing a fourth-and-10 when Easterling found Arnold, who turned it into a 37-yard play before being bounced out of bounds at the 1. On the next play, Easterling sneaked it in to give the Hornets their 12-8 lead with 1:48 left in the half.
Cabot got good field position to start the second half thanks to a nice kickoff return by Joseph Bryant, who later converted a fourth-and-5 from the 36 with a 14-yard run. The Panthers got to the 13 where they faced a fourth-and-1. Mahoney converted with a 6-yard blast. They inched their way to the 4 on three plays and appeared to convert again with Joseph Bryant scoring. But a procedure penalty negated the play and on a second fourth-down try, this time from the 9, a pass fell incomplete.
The Hornets took over and picked up some yardage but a pair of procedure penalties kept them bottled up. A third-down pass from Easterling to Parish fell a yard short of the first-down marker and they punted it back to the Panthers, setting up the final sequence of events.
The win improved the Hornets to 5-3 overall, 3-3 in the South Division of the Central Arkansas Conference. They’ll wrap up the regular-season with a visit to Benton to renew their long rivalry with the Warriors. A playoff game at home against a team from the North Division will conclude the season on Tuesday, Oct. 31.