Bryant overwhelms Greenbrier, 21-0
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
With star tailback Matt White out for the season, the Bryant Junior High Mustangs turned to a tailback-by-committee Thursday night in their final home game against the Greenbrier Panthers and hardly missed a beat in a 21-0 victory.
In seven games this season prior to breaking three of the fingers on his left hand, White rushed for 769 yards and 16 touchdowns, an average of 110 yards and two TDs per game. In game No. 8, a trio of tailbacks — Zack Dickson, Jonathan Jameson and Adam Hurley — combined for 104 yards and two TDs.
Admittedly, the Mustangs miss White’s speed and game-breaking potential, but they proved quite effective with a more power-oriented attack. Fullback Andy Summers, given more carries, produced his biggest numbers of the season, rumbling for 172 yards on 17 carries.
Add to that the fact that quarterback Kevin Littleton hit 4-of-7 passes for 31 yards and it’s obvious the Mustangs still have a potent offense.
All of that proved encouraging as the Mustangs readied to finish the season against the unbeaten Benton Warriors on Tuesday (see related story). Going into the game, Benton had won 26 games in a row and 36 of its last 37 with only a 20-18 loss to Conway to start the 1996 season interrupting the incredible run.
Benton clinched at least a share of the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference championship and eliminated the Mustangs (7-2 overall, 4-2 in conference) from contention with a 24-12 win over Sheridan.
Of course, the Mustangs would love nothing better than to end the Warriors’ streak and spoil their perfect season, but the Mustangs will need to be sharper than they were against Greenbrier. Bryant lost two fumbles when it appeared they were marching towards touchdowns and were plagued by penalties. Seven flags cost them 86 yards.
“A win’s a win and I’m glad we won,” said Bryant head coach Scott Neathery. “But penalties, mistakes, fumbles — we made tons of mental mistakes tonight. Our minds just weren’t in the ballgame, the first half for sure. We’ll need to get ready for Benton, a good team, well-coached, fundamentally sound. We’ll have to play a good ballgame to beat them.”
The Mustangs opened the game with an accidental onside kick that Jameson recovered at the Greenbrier 46. Behind Summers and Hurley, they drove to the 18 but Littleton and Hurley mishandled an exchange and the resulting fumble was recovered by Greenbrier.
The Junior Panthers drove to midfield before the Bryant defense got the ball back. Linebacker Jason Rose, unsurprised by a double-reverse pass, intercepted at the 37.
An illegal block pushed the Mustangs back to their own 25 but in 11 plays they found paydirt. The drive was highlighted by Summers’ powerful runs of 17, 23 and 10 yards. Littleton completed a pair of passes including a 7-yarder to tight end Cody Graddy for the touchdown. Dickson ran for the two-point conversion to put the Mustangs ahead 8-0.
That was the score at the half.
A 37-yard kickoff return by Jameson to start the second half put Bryant in great field position again at the Panthers’ 43. This time, they moved to the 31 before a fumble ended the drive.
In turn, Greenbrier drove to the Bryant 33 where the Mustangs’ defense crashed in on a pitch sweep and forced a fumble that Nate Roe recovered. It was Roe’s second fumble recovery of the game.
And the Mustangs again turned the turnover into points. Another 11-play drive covered the 64 yards to the end zone. The key plays included a tough 3-yard run by Dickson to convert a third-and-2 at the Mustangs 44; a splendid catch by Graddy on a pass play that converted a third-and-9 at the Bryant 48; and, after a holding penalty pushed the Mustangs back; an 18-yard gallop on a power sweep by Dickson that converted a fourth-and-2 at the Greenbrier 34.
The latter play put the Mustangs at the Panther 16 and, on the next snap, Jameson skirted right end for a TD to make it 14-0.
“We probably have six or seven guys that we feel comfortable putting in the backfield at any time,” Neathery noted. “Some of them block better than others, some of them run better than others, but they’re all about the same. Certain plays, we’re just going to have certain people in.
“Dickson’s a heck of an athlete,” Neathery added. “He’s one of the fastest guys on our team. He can just about play anywhere he wants. He’s a good kid and we’re going to put him back there just to give people a different look.”
Dickson has started at tight end and defensive end all season.
On Greenbrier’s subsequent possession, the Bryant defense totally shut them down. Safety Matt Nugent put the finishing touches on the stand when he came up strong to foil a flea-flicker on third down. Panther quarterback Brian Robinson threw short to flanker Clint Wallace who lateraled back to Michael Johns. But Nugent wasn’t fooled and dropped Johns for a 2-yard loss.
But, on the ensuing punt, the Mustangs were penalized prior to gaining possession and Greenbrier got another chance at its own 38. Robinson tried to go deep but Bryant’s Josh Miller intercepted at the 30. Though Miller returned to the 46, a clipping penalty brought the run back and the Mustangs started at their own 31.
The offense then proceeded to put the finishing touches on the win. Summers bulled for 6 yards then busted a 52-yard sprint to the Greenbrier 11. Two runs by Dickson from there found the end zone. The scoring play covered 4 yards. Matt Sullivan kicked the extra point and the final score was on the board with 1:54 left.
Both teams then turned to their reserves.