Injury-riddled Hornets put away Parkview
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
In his two previous seasons, about the only time Dennis Holland got his name in the paper was when someone used it by mistake when they were referring to wide receiver Dustin Holland. At the beginning of the 2005 season, Dennis Holland was a six-foot, 160-pound safety who just didn’t have the foot speed to get much playing time for the Bryant Hornets.
Secondary coach Kris Clark, noting that he wasn’t shy about contact, recommended a position change to defensive coordinator Steve Griffith. At first, they tried him at linebacker but that didn’t work out. So, midway through the season, he still hadn’t played much, to the point where, in his Senior Profile in the Bryant Times, he was asked if there was anything (besides executing his assignments) that he tried to bring to the team when he got onto the field, he replied, “I don’t get on the field.”
But the injuries started to pile up for the Hornets, who have been hit harder this season than in any previous campaign in memory. Dennis Holland was pressed into duty on the defensive line the very next game.
In four games since, he’s been in on 28 tackles working against much bigger offensive linemen. The guy that hadn’t been fast enough or quick enough for the secondary, was suddenly too fast and too quick to be blocked on the d-line.
Ironically, Dennis Holland never had an interception nor scored a varsity touchdown in the secondary but, on Friday, Oct. 21, he got both as a defensive lineman to start the Hornets on their way to a 21-3 upset victory over the Little Rock Parkview Patriots at Scott Field.
It was a win that pushed the Hornets into a tie with the Patriots for third in the AAAAA-Central Conference and kept them on a late season roll which — if it continues for the final two games of the regular season at Conway and at home against second place North Little Rock — could result in a second-place finish and a home playoff game.
Dennis Holland’s story is typical of the way this group of Hornets has stepped up, closing ranks after one injury after another, plus some early-season defections that cost them three or four players that figured to contribute.
Against Parkview, the Hornets got back junior defensive tackle Chris Taylor but, earlier in the week, they’d lost sophomore center Chad Hinson, who had broken a bone in his foot while playing with his dog in the yard. Hinson had taken over as the starting center for the second game of the season and had been solid ever since.
The team also lost defensive tackle Chris Sonaysene, a junior move-in from Wynne, who had just started to get into the action. Sonaysene, a defensive lineman, suffered a badly broken finger.
Those came on the heels of season-ending injuries to starting linebacker Zach Sanders, starting receiver Joey Winiecki and starting guard Andrew Burdett. Taylor, sophomore linebacker Jared Szabad, and junior receiver Hunter Stobaugh had missed playing time as well.
Amid all of the musical chairs the Bryant coaching staff — particularly line coaches Brad Stroud (defense) and head coach Paul Calley (offense) — has had to play with their personnel, the Hornets took on the Patriots, who appeared to be on a roll, coming into the game with just one conference loss.
“It was a game we had to have,” stated Calley. “I felt like it was the most complete game we played all year, in all three phases of the game. Our focus was there and the kids were determined. I’m just proud of them and proud of the coaching staff. This may be the best coaching job we’ve done. Just to be in this position this late in the season . . . it’s where we wanted to be, where we hoped to be. We’ve had some kids step up that we never expected to play. They’ve done a great job. Just with a lot of guts, a lot of effort, we’re able to get it done.”
For the third game in the last four, the Hornets got a big play from the special teams. No doubt, the Patriots were aware that Bryant had blocked three punts in their win over Little Rock Hall the previous week. When they were forced to punt at the end of their first possession of the game, Antorrian Watkins dropped by inside his own 20. A rushed snap sailed over his head toward the end zone. Watkins rushed back and scooped it up as Bryant’s Zach Kitchens, Nathan Probst and Cody Williams descended upon him. Fearing he would be tackled for a safety, Watkins flung a sidearmed pass toward a teammate only to have Dennis Holland step in for the interception at the 5 and stroll into the end zone for a touchdown.
Parkview’s next possession ended in a punt that Watkins got away. The Hornets, with running back Jon Isbell carrying the ball repeatedly behind the trio of Bracey Atkinson, Matt Martin and Jordan Mountjoy, marched to the Patriots 2. On first-and-goal, however, Isbell fumbled into the end zone and Parkview recovered for a touchback.
The Patriots drove into Bryant territory, reaching the 40 on a short pass from Chris Kimbrough to Erick Stone. Stone, who had been held to one catch to that point, may have been frustrated that he slid out of bounds after picking up just 5 yards on the play or he may have been trying to fire up his team. For whatever reason, he spiked the ball which is usually a 5-yard delay of game penalty. But because of the flagrance of the violation (and perhaps something said), the officials called it unsportsmanlike conduct and marched off 15 yards. A holding penalty on the next play forced the Patriots into a fourth-and-33 from their own 32.
But a long punt by Watkins turned the field over and Bryant went back on offense at its 26. On a second down play, quarterback Anthony Mask was flushed out of the pocket and wove his way 38 yards, his longest run of the season.
From the Parkview 34, Mask hit Isbell with a 17-yard pass to the 17. A pair of Isbell runs and a penalty reached the 5 and, from there, Mask passed to Dustin Holland who made a finger-tip catch just inside the boundary for the touchdown.
Jordan Knight’s extra point made it 14-0 with 3:23 left in the half.
“I thought Dustin played exceptionally well,” Calley commented, noting that his receiver also played cornerback, mostly matched up with Stone, Parkview’s big play receiver. “He’s playing every snap. Jon ran the ball hard. On the offensive line, we had to move Jordan to center this week (because of Hinson’s injury), first time he’s played there since week one and he did a real good job. We ran behind him and Matt and Bracey all night. We had some trouble on the other side so, late in the game, we just started flip-flopping linemen and tried to run behind them.”
The Hornets wound up running the ball on 40 plays and passing just 13 times, a real reversal of the usual ratio.
“We hung onto the ball. That was key,” Calley noted. “Coach Griff’s always standing beside you telling us to run it. Once we got up 14-0, we were trying to run the clock. We were still playing to win but as long as we were having success running the ball that’s what we wanted to stay with. And we hit some big pass plays because of it. They tightened up to stop the run and we hit a couple of big pass plays.”
The half ended with some theatrics. Parkview drove to the Bryant 5 with :17 left. After a holding penalty pushed them back, Kimbrough scrambled and was forced out of bounds as time appeared to run out.
Bryant’s bench started toward the locker room as Parkview head coach Earnest McGhee argued that his quarterback and gotten out of bounds with some time left on the clock. The officials huddled as the Hornets reached the locker room.
Eventually, the officials agreed that there should still be a second left and called Bryant back onto the field. The coaches went to the sideline, across the field from the locker room, and the defense came on for the one last play while the rest of the team gathered, at first, on the edge of the Parkview end zone.
McGhee protested vehemently. The Hornets were moved back from the end zone to the track around the field. McGhee protested more, insisting that the players return to their sideline. Instead, the officials made the players fall back beyond the track in front of the locker room and they were told not to be quiet for the final play.
Finally, the Patriots and Hornets lined up for a last play only to have Bryant call a timeout once the coaches saw the Patriots’ formation. When play resumed, a pass fell incomplete but the Hornets were flagged for interference and since a half can’t end on a defensive penalty, the ball was moved half the distance to the goal line to the Bryant 8 and the Patriots were given one more shot.
This time, however, Dennis Holland and Nathan Probst tracked down Kimbrough for a half-ending sack, taking some of the starch out of the Patriots.
“We played that bend but don’t break defense,” Calley said. “We gave up some plays but when they got close to the goal line, we stiffened and were able to stop them. I’m very proud of our defense.”
The Hornets put up another stand midway through the third quarter with the lead still 14-0.
They had driven to the Parkview 21 before turning the ball over on downs. In turn, the Patriots used some trickery to finally hit a big play. Kimbrough threw a lateral to wide receiver Joseph Adams, who is the Patriots’ backup quarterback as well. Adams heaved a long pass to Stone who had a step on Dustin Holland and hauled it in. But Holland stayed after it and saved a touchdown with a tackle at the 11.
It was a big stop. On three keepers in succession, Kimbrough reached the 1. On first-and-goal, however, he was stopped for no gain. Before a second-down play, the Patriots were penalized back to the 6. Kimbrough then fumbled the snap and, though he retained possession, he lost 3 yards, setting up a third-and-goal from the 9. After a timeout, Kimbrough went back to pass and was sacked by middle linebacker Josh Vocque at the 20. The Patriots had to settle for a 35-yard field goal by Alex O’Neal that made it 14-3.
Vocque, by the way, led the team in tackles with 10. Safety Hunter Hatcher had 9, Szabad 8 and Taylor 7.
“Lance Hodges played well,” said Griffith. “He played a couple of different positions and did a good job at both.” Because of Parkview’s spread offense, Hodges was employed at linebacker as well as cornerback for the game.
Bryant answered Parkview’s score with a touchdown drive that covered 74 yards in six plays. The running of Isbell and Zach Kellum got the Hornets to the 43 when a personal foul got tacked on. Two plays later, Mask threw to Dustin Holland for a 42-yard touchdown play that made it 21-3 going into the fourth quarter.
Parkview’s next possession ended with an interception by Dustin Holland at the Bryant 12. He fumbled the ball but Hodges dove on the ball. Another personal foul penalty allowed the Hornets to take over at the 27.
A 16-yard quarterback sneak by Mask got the Hornets into Parkview territory but the drive bogged down after a holding penalty. Williams punted Parkview back to the 19.
The Patriots picked up one first down (by penalty) but couldn’t get past their own 40. Bryant took over at the 47 and at up the final 5:53 thanks to a 22-yard pass from Mask to Dustin Holland and the running of Kellum. The game ended with Bryant at the 9.