Hornets ‘rebound’ to notch first league win over Pointers
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
Like a power forward posting up on a guard, Van Buren’s 6-4 wide receiver Brooks White, who indeed plays for the Pointers’ basketball team, was out-reaching and ,when necessary, out-leaping the 5-10 cornerbacks of the Bryant Hornets early in the 7A-Central Conference game at Bryant Stadium on Friday, Oct. 3.
So Bryant head coach Paul Calley, called for his own power forward, 6-2 safety Dijon Benton to provide some over-the-top help. At times, Benton was actually moved to cornerback to go one-on-one with White after the Pointers receiver had already hauled in two touchdown passes in just a little over a quarter.
It was a problem that had plagued the Hornets the previous week when Little Rock Catholic used 6-3 Garrett Uekmann and 6-4 Paul Drake on fade routes to launch the Rockets to a 27-21 win.
And, sure enough, after White’s second touchdown, the Hornets found themselves down 13-6 with 9:52 left to play in the first half of their Homecoming game.
But once Bryant made the adjustment with Benton, Van Buren was held scoreless and the Hornets rallied behind another fine game from running back Chris Ryclaw, for a 28-13 win to improve to 4-1 on the season, 1-1 in league play.
“Their receivers were just taller,” acknowledged Hornets head coach Paul Calley. “We could have the ball played well, just not be able to get to the ball at its highest point. We just felt like we were going to have to make a change or they could do that all night long just like Catholic did.
“We moved Dijon out there just part of the time,” he continued. “If we felt like they were going to throw or if they were into the short side of the field with one wideout to the wide side then we’d make the change to just take away that jump ball.”
After the adjustment, Van Buren didn’t manage another first down the rest of the first half. White went on to catch 12 passes for 93 yards but was denied the two or three times the rest of the game that the Pointers tried it.
“We’re still not doing everything we’re coached to do defensively,” Calley mentioned. “Coach Grif (defensive coordinator Steve Griffith) had a good scheme to stop them it was just not getting executed. We’re going to keep moving people around and changing personnel until we find people that can do what they’re coached to do.”
Rycraw went over 100 yards rushing for the fourth time in five games. (The lone exception was the loss to Catholic.) He picked up 144 stripes on 24 totes with two touchdowns. And he would’ve had another 30 yards but for a penalty that negated more than half of a 56-yard run early in the second half.
“I’m proud of the offensive line,” Calley noted. “Everybody played well. KB (Kaleb Burns) started at tackle and it’s really the first time he’s played since the eighth grade. He had a torn ACL in the ninth grade and last year. He had a good week of practice and played really well.
“Rycraw makes it happen,” he continued. “There were times when we’d miss a block and he’d just see the crease and hit it.”
Senior tailback-turned-fullback Aspen Trevino also came through with a big night, serving as Rycraw’s lead blocker, rushing for 45 yards on eight attempts much of which came in a late drive that ate up almost eight minutes of the fourth quarter, much to Van Buren’s frustration. Plus, Trevino caught a shuttle pass from quarterback Jimi Easterling and turned it into a 67-yard touchdown which gave the Hornets a two-score lead late in the third period.
“I think he likes it there (at fullback), getting out and blocking,” Calley mentioned. “He did a good job of blocking. He’s been really receptive to everything we’ve asked him to do.”
The Hornets time-zapping drive near the end of the game was a counterpart to Van Buren’s game-opening march that drained over six minutes off the clock and concluded with the game’s first points on the first jump ball pass put up by the Pointers’ senior quarterback David Ostander covering 4 yards to White. The Hornets had the drive stopped at midfield but when Van Buren lined up to punt, Bryant jumped offsides turning a fourth-and-6 into a fourth-and-1 which Ostrander converted with a sneak.
The Pointers missed the extra point, however, and led just 6-0.
And as long as that drive was, Bryant’s first was short but just as effective starting with a fine return of the kickoff by Logan Garland to the Van Buren 47. Rycraw’s first carry of the night broke for 39 yards to the 8 and, two plays later, he scored from the 6.
But a wide PAT (just the second miss of the season by kicker Austin Bradley) left it 6-6.
The teams traded punts before Van Buren got another touchdown drive together, covering 41 yards in 10 plays with White pulling down a 14-yard floater from Ostrander.
Again, the Hornets answered right back with the help of a short kickoff and a return by sophomore Hunter Mayall to near midfield. Bryant went 53 yards in eight plays with Rycraw contributing a 19-yard scamper along the way. His 1-yard plunge put the points on the board with 6:37 left in the half.
The Hornets tried for 2 in hopes of taking the lead but Rycraw was stopped short and Van Buren retained a 13-12 edge.
But it didn’t stay that way long. Defensive end Nathan Lee and tackle Shawn Burchfield made a stop for a loss on a second-down play and Van Buren went three-and-out.
“Burchfield is the most consistent player we’ve got on defense right now,” Calley noted. “And Nathan is definitely one of our better defensive players. He’s hard to block.”
A delay penalty pushed the Pointers back to the point that punter Jake Thompson was standing at his 1. And when a low snap came to him, all he could do was grab it and scramble. Brandon Wallis hit him in the end zone and Austin Humbard finished him off for a safety that gave Bryant the lead for good.
Chris Arnold made another strong return on the subsequent free kick and the Hornets appeared destined for another score, starting at the Van Buren 30 but, a play later, the Pointers’ Allen King intercepted a pass and returned it to the 38. Two plays later, however, Brandon Parish intercepted one in return.
Bradley eventually missed a long field goal try. Van Buren took over at its 20 and was thwarted again as Humbard and Josh Hampton made a stop for a loss on a third-down play and Thompson was back to punt again with :24 left in the half.
Bryant got the ball with :18.1 on the clock at its own 46. Easterling pumped a 22-yard pass to Garrett Bock and the Hornets called timeout with :10 left, though the clock rolled on down to :07.5. The officials put the time back on the clock and it proved fortuitous for the Hornets.
After an incomplete pass, the Hornets got one more try and Easterling dropped a perfectly thrown pass into Tim Floyd deep down the right sideline before the safety could get there. Floyd hauled it in and sprinted into the end zone with no time on the clock. Bradley’s PAT was good and the Hornets had a more commanding 21-13 lead at the break.
Bryant made a bid to score on the first drive of the second half too but a fumble inside the Van Buren 5 was kicked through the back of the end zone by a Van Buren player for a touchback. The Pointers took possession at the 20 and drove to the Bryant 33 where Lee, who was pressuring Ostrander all night, was clearly held as he rushed. The penalty cost the Pointers 18 yards and when Benton knocked a third-down fade pass, Van Buren had to punt again.
The Hornets took advantage of a short kick with Easterling’s shuttle pass to Trevino for the final score.
Van Buren answered with a drive to the Bryant 12 but, on a third down there, Lee sacked Ostrander at the 20 and, again, a fourth-down fade pass toward White was broken up by Benton and the Hornets took over on downs with 8:52 left in the game.
When they gave it back, the Pointers were left with just a minute.
It was the first meeting ever between the two schools in football. Van Buren, in its first year in the 7A-Central, dropped to 1-4 overall and 1-1 in the league.
The win set up a showdown for the Hornets at Russellville against the league’s only remaining unbeaten team on Friday, Oct. 10.