Mustangs close out 8-win season
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
SEARCY — Just for fun, the Bryant Junior High Mustangs finished the 2001 season with a 22-3 win over the Searcy Lion Cubs to become just the third Mustangs team to win eight games.
The game, a kind of post-season contest between the third-placed teams from the two divisions of the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference, was decided by halftime as the Mustangs rolled to a 22-0 lead while holding Searcy to 40 yards of offense.
The Mustangs finish the season 8-2. Combined with the eighth grade team and B team records this season, Bryant Junior High teams compiled an impressive 22-6 mark.
“Eight wins is the most in Mustangs history, so we tied that and I’m very happy about that,” said Scott Neathery as he completed his fourth season at the Mustangs helm. Now 26-13-1 under Neathery, it was the Mustangs third winning season in the last four years. “I’m very proud of these guys. I feel like this is a group of over-achievers. You know, some of them you look at and they may not be the best athletes in the world but a lot of them have heart and a lot of them will compete.
“There’s only been a couple of times where I’ve seen them where they haven’t competed,” he continued. “But we’ve always bounced back from adversity and the last two games we’ve come out with fire in our eyes with nothing to play for, just for pride and that’s what I really liked about this group.”
Prior to the win over Searcy, the Mustangs drubbed the rival Benton Warriors 45-14 (see related story.)
The Mustangs would’ve had eight wins in 2000 but, in the post-season game, against Searcy at Bryant, the Cubs eked out a 28-27 win.
“I told the kids, ‘Let’s have fun,’” Neathery said. “We threw in a bunch of trick plays. I wanted the kids to go out with a bang and have fun and that’s what we did.”
In fact, the Mustangs opened the game in their swinging gate formation usually reserved for extra-point attempts. (In fact, they used it later to score a two-point conversion.) Though they were unable to make anything happen because of Blake Zuber’s 34-yard return of the short opening kickoff, the Mustangs’ punter Todd Bryan was able to pooch kick the Lion Cubs back to their own 9.
Searcy punted it back in short order and the Mustangs drove for their first touchdown in five plays. The running of fullback Landon Bullock, who finished with 51 yards on just six carries in the game, set up an 18-yard touchdown pass from Bryan Griffith to Ritchie Wood.
Searcy, in turn, managed one first down before punting again. The Mustangs regained possession at their own 33 and Bullock reeled off a 22-yard run. A play later, Griffith threw deep to Josh Rice on the fade route for 38 yards setting up a 5-yard touchdown run by Travis Wood on a double reverse.
Bryan ran for the 2-point conversion off the swinging gate and Bryant led 15-0.
Searcy’s next two possessions ended with a punt and an interception by linebacker Kyle Sterling. After the punt, the Mustangs reached the Searcy 29 before a holding penalty knocked them too far back to make up.
After the interception, however, they tried more trickery. Griffith hit Rice on a short hook pattern. Rice completed the old hook and ladder play by tossing a “ladder-al” to Bryan who dashed down the left boundary for a 57-yard touchdown play.
It was Griffith’s 18th touchdown pass of the season, second only to Scott Peeler’s 20 from 2000. Griffith, however, broke Peeler’s yardage record for the season with 1,550.
Bryan kicked the extra point and the Mustangs had a 22-0 lead with 1:05 left in the half.
That gave Bryan 122 points scored for the season and that, too, set a new Mustangs’ mark.
Searcy had made it into Bryant territory just once in the half, just prior to Sterling’s interception. They didn’t get inside the Mustangs’ 40 until early in the final period when Bryant had begun to substitute on defense.
The Mustangs appeared to have another touchdown on yet another razzle-dazzle maneuver late in the third quarter. Griffith handed off to Bryan who handed back to Rice, coming around from wide receiver on a reverse. Rice then threw back to Griffith as he streaked down the sideline. It would’ve been a 31-yard touchdown play but the Mustangs were flagged for procedure negating the gain.
Moments later, Bryan kicked Searcy back to its 11. But the Cubs put together a drive to the Bryant 1. A fourth-down try from there was negated by penalty and the Cubs had to settle for a 20-yard field goal with just over five minutes left in the game.