Bryant stops Benton, records fifth shutout
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
The Bryant Junior Hornets were bound and determined to make their final home game of the 2005 season fun. Head coach Jason Hay pulled out all the stops as his team took on the winless Benton Warriors and awaited word from Lake Hamilton on whether they’d earn a chance to play for the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference championship on Tuesday, Nov. 1.
The Hornets needed the Sheridan Stingers to knock off the unbeaten Lake Hamilton Junior Wolves, along with a win over Benton, to earn that title shot. As it was, the Stingers came up just short in a wild 38-33 game, while the Hornets took care of their part, easing to a 33-0 win.
Thus, the Hornets, who closed the regular season 8-1 overall and 4-1 in the division, finished as the No. 2 team from the South Division pitting them against the Greenbrier Junior Panthers, the runner-up in the North Division, in the league’s unique cross-division bonus game on Tuesday, Nov. 1.
“I told the guys, it’s not every day you get to enjoy the season that we have,” said Hay. “We push ‘em and push ‘em and push ‘em so hard all the time and they’ve been playing for years against Benton, so we just said, ‘Go out and have fun. If you’re not having fun tonight then you don’t need to be playing.’ That was the main deal. I wanted to go out tonight and have some fun. And I think we did that. We did that, won a game and got everyone to play. We accomplished all our goals.
“We ran every trick play we have but about one or two and if I’d have had more time (in the first half) I’d have run them,” he added. “It’s supposed to be fun.”
The Hornets’ lone loss of the season was a thrilling 36-34 game at Lake Hamilton which they led with 40 seconds to go only to have the Wolves return a kickoff for a touchdown to tie it and add a two-point conversion for the winning margin.
“Everybody’s going to think that it goes back to Lake Hamilton and one play but I think every player on our team has looked at that game and said what could we have done different,” Hay stated. “We’ve looked at 20 different plays and 20 different breakdowns. But we can’t do anything about that, all we can do is play and these guys, if we can win Tuesday, will tie for the best record. There’s only been one other (Junior Hornets) team that’s ever won nine games. And that’s a credit to them and their hard work. And you haven’t heard the last of these guys because they’re going to be good in high school.”
Most of the Bryant starters played just one half against the Warriors. Aspen Trevino rushed just seven times but he picked up 77 yards and scored twice to increase his school records to 1,272 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns. Quarterback Ethan Powell completed 9 of 15 passes for 193 yards and two scores, all in the first half.
It was also the third consecutive shutout for the Bryant defense and its fifth this season. Since the loss to Lake Hamilton, the Hornets have allowed just 6 points in 16 quarters of football. That lone score came with the reserves closing out a 28-6 win over Conway White on Oct. 6. Bryant allowed 36 points to Lake Hamilton and 20 to Morrilton but beyond that, opponents have mustered just 12 in seven games.
Against Benton, the Hornets scored on each of their first four possessions. To open the game, they drove 57 yards in five plays with Trevino rumbling 34 yards to the touchdown. Austin Bradley’s extra point made it 7-0.
Benton’s best drive of the first half was its first one. The Warriors worked the ball from their own 13 to the Bryant 49. But penalties on consecutive plays pushed them back to their 43 and they were eventually forced to punt.
Bryant went back on offense at its 31 and Trevino immediately ripped off a 16-yard run. A play later, Powell passed 10 yards to Ryan McKnight. At the 40, Benton made a bid at a stand when Powell threw incomplete and Trevino was stopped for a yard loss by Drew Forner. But, on third down, Powell scrambled and sprinted 22 yards for a first down. On the next play, Trevino crashed in from 19 yards out.
Bradley kicked it to 14-0 with 7:32 left in the half.
Benton subsequent possession netted 4 yards and a punt. Bryant, in turn, put together a 65-yard scoring drive in five plays, highlighted by Powell’s passing. He hit Kaleb Jobe for 16 yards to convert a third-and-4 from the Bryant 41. He then connected with Tim Floyd for 12 yards before finding Jobe again on a pass over the middle that the receiver broke for a 36-yard touchdown.
The Warriors were again unable to pick up a first down and punted back to the Hornets who, this time, covered the 65 yards in just three plays. Powell kept on an 18-yard run then passed 17 more to Jobe to set up a 30-yard touchdown strike to Jeremy Jordan with 59 seconds left in the half.
A bad snap spoiled the extra point and Bryant led 27-0.
An interception by Justin Blankenship gave the Hornets a chance to score again. Passes from Powell to Floyd picked up 15 then 36 yards to the Warriors 26 but time ran out on them there.
The final score in the game came midway through the third quarter. Benton had taken the second-half kickoff and driven to the Bryant 38 with quarterback Justin Mills completing passes of 9 yards to Colby Roberts and 18 yards to Austin Sams. But, on a second-and-12 from the Bryant 40, Mills pass over the middle was picked off by Jordan in full stride. He returned it 74 yards for the touchdown to make it 33-0.
Benton’s best chance to score came in the final two minutes of the third quarter when the Warriors blocked a Bryant punt and recovered it. With a penalty tacked on, the Warriors gained possession at the Bryant 18. In four plays, however, they only reached the 15 and turned the ball over on downs.
The Hornets’ reserves then ate up the final 7:52 by driving from the 15 to the Benton 30 behind the running of Dylan Chism and Aaron Prewitt.