Bullock, Junior Hornets overwhelm Warriors
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
BENTON — For half the season, Brennan Bullock played with a cast on his wrist and forearm. He was one of a few on the team’s long list of injured players that was able to get on the field consistently. He got pretty good holding the ball with his left hand and not fumbling while rushing for over 500 yards and six touchdowns in the Bryant Junior Hornets’ first eight games.
The cast came off only recently and, on Thursday, Oct. 26, the Benton Junior High Warriors got a full dose of Bullock, the offensive line of Matt Scott, Mitch Wise, Kaleb Burns, Dustin Grimmett, Matt Howard and Tyler Groves and the entire Bryant freshman team in a 35-22 romp that wasn’t that close at C.W.Lewis Stadium.
Bullock, despite just two attempts in the fourth quarter, rushed for a whopping 204 yards on 23 carries and three touchdowns with a fourth TD (and 20 more yards) negated by penalty. He caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jimi Easterling and added a 40-yard punt return for the Hornets who piled up 371 yards of offense.
The win improved the Hornets to 6-3 overall this season, 4-3 in the South Division of the Central Arkansas Conference, good for third place. They were set to finish the season at home on Tuesday, Oct. 31, against the No. 3 team from the North Division, Russellville East, in a re-match of a game earlier this season.
Bryant built up a 35-7 lead over the rival Warriors then head coach Jason Hay started getting everyone some playing time while Benton continued with its starters. The Warriors wound up compiling 172 yards of offense but 102 of that came in the fourth quarter when they scored 15 points against the Bryant reserves.
“We did something we hadn’t done all year, we played a complete game, from start to finish,” Hay declared. “We finally established the running game and we completed some big passes. Brennan, that’s the best job I’ve seen him running. Chris Arnold and those guys did a good job of blocking and the o-line — that’s what I’ve been looking for — they did a good job. And for the defense, it was business as usual for them.”
Bryant scored on five of their first seven possessions. Their misses came on the first series and third. On the opening possession they drove from their own 28 to the Benton 5 before a sack and a delay penalty contributed to their turning it over on downs at the 17. On the third possession, they drove from midfield to the Benton 21 where a pass into the end zone got intercepted by Benton’s Drew McCurry.
The Hornets had already taken the lead by then, however, with a 47-yard drive in six plays. Easterling who finished 11 of 15 fir 177 yards completed a 12-yard pass to Arnold but, two plays later, an illegal block set the Hornets back. Again, though, Easterling found Arnold who broke loose on a 34-yard gain to the 9.
After a procedure penalty pushed the Hornets back, Easterling beat a Benton blitz with a nice screen pass to Bullock who ran it in for the game’s first score with 6:54 left in the first half. Sergio Arias kicked the extra point to make it 7-0.
Benton managed its only first down of the half on its ensuing possession thanks to a Bryant penalty. Two plays later, however, a McCurry pass was intercepted by Brady Butler at midfield.
After McCurry intercepted Easterling, Benton could muster nothing. A six-yard loss when McCurry was sacked by Walter Mendoza forced a short punt. Bryant got the ball back at the Benton 34 with 1:44 left in the half and rolled in for another score. Easterling connected on consecutive passes to Brandon Parish to set up Bullock’s 1-yard plunge with 0:33 showing.
And the Hornets got the ball to start the second half when Benton couldn’t corral a short kickoff and Tyler Groves grabbed the ball in stride and raced to the Warriors’ 19. It was ruled, however, that the ball couldn’t be advanced so the Hornets were awarded possession at the 41.
The inevitable was merely delayed. A 16-yard pass from Easterling to Cody Brady, who made a nice finger-tip grab over the middle was followed by a 22-yard burst by Bullock to set up his second 1-yard TD run that, with Arias’ kick, made it 21-0.
Benton, in turn, failed to pick up a first down and when Bullock made his long return of the Warriors’ punt, the Hornets were just 32 yards away from another score. It took one play to cover it, too. Easterling hit Arnold with a pass over the middle at about the 20. Arnold broke a tackle then scored despite being hit by a pair of defenders inside the 5.
Arias booted it to 28-0 with 3:36 left in the third quarter.
Up to that point, the Hornets hadn’t been kickoff deep, hoping to keep the ball out of the hands of Edrick Coggins. But this time, up 28, Arias boomed it only to have Coggins provide an example of why they’d avoided him, returning to the Bryant 42.
Using short passes, McCurry completed four in a row to drive the Warriors to their first score. The touchdown came from 15 yards out on a throw to Luke Brasuell.
An onside kick was recovered by Blake Heil for Bryant and the Hornets’ starters put together one more scoring march, covering 53 yards in six plays. Bullock’s 37-yard gallop set up the touchdown, a 2-yard plunge by the running back to give him four scores in the game.
Even against the Bryant reserves, Benton needed a pass interference penalty to convert a fourth-and-3 from the Bryant 46, to keep its answering touchdown drive alive. When the Warriors reached the 21, the Hornets nearly came up with interceptions on three passes out of the next four plays. Damon Hester and Jonathan Chapman narrowly missed then, after Chapman tipped a pass which fell incomplete. Benton faced another fourth down. McCurry threw to the end zone and Jordan Harrison appeared to have an interception only to have it ricochet up and into the hands of Coggins for a touchdown with 3:59 left in the game.
McCurry ran in a two-point conversion to make it 35-15.
Mitchell Wise covered the onside kick for Bryant but the Hornets’ reserves were unable to pick up a first down against the Benton starting defense. Bullock punted the Warriors back to the 26. From there, McCurry and Brasuell combined for a 74-yard touchdown pass to set the final score with 1:05 left to play.
Benton got a chance to close the gap further when Martin Cole recovered an onside kick but the Bryant starters returned and Arnold intercepted McCurry’s pass at the Hornets’ 20.
Bullock and the starting offense returned and, on the next play, Bullock broke what would’ve been an 80-yard touchdown run except for a penalty behind the play that negated 25 yards of the run. One more play, however, and the game was over anyway as Bryant defeated its rival for the third year in a row and fifth in the last seven meetings.