Junior Hornets knock off another unbeaten foe
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
CONWAY — For the second week in a row, the Bryant Hornets freshman team pinned the first loss of the season on an opponent. This time, the Conway White Wampus Kittens were the victims in a thrilling, rain-soaked rumble. Bryant held on for a 14-13 victory when Conway’s wrecking ball of a fullback Jaycob Baker was tackled short of the goal line by linebacker Nick Chapdelaine initially and the Hornets’ swarming defense as time ran out.
With the win, the Hornets, now 5-1 overall, remained tied with Sheridan atop the South Division of the Central Arkansas Conference, going into a return trip to Conway on Thursday, Oct. 14, to play Conway Blue.
“These guys, as eighth graders, only won two games,” noted Bryant head coach Jason Hay. “It’s long from over and we’re just going to take them one at a time, just keep playing and, if we’ll keep producing like we have been, I think some good things are going to happen.”
The week before, Lake Hamilton felt the Hornets’ sting. In that game, the Hornets offense converted a crucial fourth down late in the game that enabled them to run out the clock to seal their victory.
Against Conway White, a similar situation developed. But this time, Hay elected to punt with 3:58 left to play on a fourth-and-3 at the 49, putting protection of the team’s 14-13 advantage in the hands of his defense. And, like the offense had the week before, the defense came through.
But it wasn’t easy.
Bryant punter Tyler Shoemake kicked the Kittens back to their own 17 but, behind the running of Isaiah Jackson on sweeps and Baker up the middle, Conway made a bid at scoring.
Twice, the Kittens converted fourth downs on runs by Jackson, who finished with 116 yards on 14 carries, the last time on a fourth-and-4 from the Bryant 29 with 39 seconds left. The only time Conway used the pass was when they spiked the ball to stop the clock which they did after Baker, who had 175 yards on 23 carries, barreled to the 6 with :15 left.
On the next play, however, Baker was stopped short by Chapdelaine and his pals and, out of timeouts, the Kittens couldn’t get lined up for another spike to stop the clock.
“Everybody always wants to go for it,” Hay said of his fourth-down decision to punt. “The kids wanted to go for it again and when you do it once, everybody thinks you ought to do it every time. But we had a bad snap the play before and that late in the game I figured I’d take our chances with punting it deep against a team that doesn’t pass. I just felt it was in the best interest of the team.”
And the defense came through, bending but not breaking.
“You look at the stats and you probably wouldn’t think we won the game,” Hay mentioned. “But the one stat that matters is the ‘W’. We only had the ball four times and we scored two of the four. I think they did a pretty good job. Nick Suggs really came through for us.”
Suggs rushed 16 times for 108 yards including a 52-yard touchdown run with 4:16 left in the third quarter that tied the game at 13. Jordan Knight kicked the extra point and Bryant had the lead for good.
The conditions were not the best for the Hornets. “It was a torrential downpour and we didn’t even have a locker room,” Hay noted. “At halftime, we were under the bleachers along with all the fans and the cheerleaders.”
It also was the team’s first road game of the season, he added. “We overcame a lot. It wasn’t a perfect game, but I’ll take it. I was real proud of the kids. I thought the offensive line played pretty well digging in against a team that practices against the run all day long.”
In fact, the Hornets looked unstoppable on the first possession of the game. They drove 64 yards in 14 plays to take a 7-0 lead. Suggs converted a fourth-and-2 from the Bryant 44 with a 6-yard burst. Later, a long snap count drew the Kittens offside to convert a third-and-4 from the Conway 44. At the 31, Suggs blasted for 9 yards to convert and third-and-2 and, a play later, quarterback Logan Parker completed a 13-yard pass to Taylor Masters, reaching the 6.
Two plays later, Masters made a tough catch on a Parker pass for the touchdown capping the drive that had used all but 1:22 of the first quarter.
Knight kicked the extra point to make it 7-0.
Conway, however, got that running game going and drove 69 yards in nine plays for an answering score. Jackson carried it in from the 21.
The Hornets were driving again on their next possession. A 14-yard pass from Parker the Masters reached the Conway 39 but, after Suggs picked up three yards, Parker, who had completed his first five pass attempts had one fall incomplete as the rain intensified. On the next play, a slippery aerial was intercepted.
Conway drove to the Bryant 21 but an interception by Trent Daniel with :32 left ended the threat.
Conway took the lead by driving 80 yards in eight plays to open the second half. Baker had runs of 17, 9 and 30 yards while Jackson added runs of 11 and 12. At the 1, the Hornets stuffed Baker and forced a fumble but Conway quarterback Zach Cates recovered at the 3. And, on the next play, Baker blasted in for the score.
But the extra point attempt was wide right, leaving the door open for the Hornets.
And it didn’t take them long to take advantage. Two plays into the subsequent possession, Suggs broke loose off left tackle for the tying score.
In turn, Conway drove to the Bryant 7 and had a touchdown negated by a holding penalty. The Kittens got back to the 10 but, on a third-and-goal, Shoemake and Knight led a pack of Bryant defenders in stacking up Baker for no gain. Conway attempted a 27-yard field goal but it was wide right and no good.
The Hornets took over at the 20 with 7:56 left in the game. With Suggs running up behind the offensive line, they pushed out across midfield to the Conway 49. But, on a second down there, Suggs was dropped for a loss of 3 by the desperate Conway defense. And, on third, down, Parker snapped up the loose ball after a fumbled snap and lunged for a yard back to the 49 with 3:58 left to play.
Shoemake’s punt, the only one of the game by either side, followed, setting up the dramatic finish.