Hornets humble Wildcats, claim No. 1
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
EL DORADO — Before the season, the coaches of the AAAAA-South Conference voted on the probable finish of the football teams in the league for the 1999 season. The results, along with those from every other conference in the state, were published in the annual Hooten’s Arkansas Football book.
The consensus among the AAAAA-South coaches was that the Bryant Hornets would finish last.
Six weeks into the season, the Hornets are not only not last, they are unbeaten, winners — big winners — over perennial league powers Pine Bluff and El Dorado and, just this week, ranked No. 1 in the state by the Associated Press and Hooten’s Arkansas Football (whose rankings are not based on the poll).
How wrong can you be?
Believers outside of Bryant were still scattered after the Hornets’ 55-31 romp over Pine Bluff on Oct. 1. But after last Friday’s 31-7 bombing of then top-ranked El Dorado at the Wildcats’ Memorial Stadium, not much more convincing was needed.
The Hornets dominated the Wildcats. Defensively, El Dorado could not cover the Bryant receivers, could not pressure Hornets quarterback Derek McCoy. Offensively, the Wildcats were unable to block Bryant’s front seven with anything approaching consistency. The Hornets controled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball against a team, many thought, would not be beaten in the state this season.
The Hornets rolled up 421 yards of offense to El Dorado’s 183.
“I think we played a complete game,” stated Bryant head coach Daryl Patton whose team, incidentally, became Bryant’s first since 1985 to win more than five games in a season. Patton quarterbacked that 1985 team to seven wins. He’ll try to coach this team to its seventh win this week at Camden Fairview.
“That’s the best game a Bryant team has ever played,” he declared with pride. “Ever.”
At 6-0 overall and 3-0 in conference play, the Hornets now have the inside track to its first league title and, with that, homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. But Patton was taking nothing for granted.
“I tell you what — and I mean this — we haven’t been in this position before,” he stated. “We’re really taking it one game at a time. We’ve got a good team in Camden coming up and all the glory and the fun we’re having right now could be wiped away in one week. Our goal is to beat Camden and, hopefully, we’ll eventually be in a position to play Benton (the final week of the season) with a championship on the line. We’ll see.
“We’ve got some good ballplayers,” Patton added. “They practice hard all week to prepare for the games. Our coaches do a great job of game-planning and we take the practice field to the game field. Tonight, everything (El Dorado) did offensively, we knew it before hand. We knew what they wanted to do and we were there to make the tackle.”
Defensive coordinator Steve Griffith lauded the work of defensive line coach Brad Stroud and secondary coach Clay Beason in preparing their troops.
“I thought we were very sound in the kicking game,” Patton continued. “And offensively, we just lined up, counting how many (defenders) were in the box, looked at what they were giving us and we had some mismatches. They were playing a lot of man and they had a hard time covering us. They had a hard time covering our backs out in the flat. We can cause a lot of mismatches with our receivers. We’ve got some depth and some good talent. And when they start covering the passes we’ve got a pretty good running game with Luke (Brown) and Matt (White).”
Patton had said (in the El Dorado and statewide papers) that the Hornets would get off the bus throwing and still be throwing when they got back on to leave, daring the Wildcats and their coaches, headed by Scooter Register, to stop it.
Quarterback Derek McCoy completed 16 of 27 passes and few of the incompletions were because receivers were not open. McCoy’s 229 yards passing pushed him over the 1,000-yard mark for the season. His 11-yard touchdown pass to Jonathan Jameson in the fourth quarter was his ninth of the year.
The Hornets offense was so good, they never had a possession in which they did not pick up at least one first down. They only had to punt once and they never turned the ball over. Besides the drives that produced points, Bryant had marches that reached the El Dorado 15 and 5 that they didn’t cash in.
As for the Wildcats, Bryant led 10-0 before they had their initial first down.
The Hornets opening possession began at their own 20. On the second play of the game, McCoy and Jameson hooked up on a 22-yard completion.
Though McCoy suffered five of his 11 incomplete passes for the game in that opening drive, when Bryant reached the 28, senior Josh Ault came on and drilled a 45-yard field goal to put the Hornets ahead.
And the Hornets defense served notice to the Wildcats’ star back Donnie Harris right away. On a sweep to start El Dorado’s subsequent possession, Harris was hauled down for a loss of two by a swarm of Hornets led by sophomore linebacker Jason Rose.
Harris wound up with just 29 yards rushing on 13 tries and, until a 32-yard pass reception in the final minutes of the game, he had just one reception for 3 yards.
The Wildcats were forced to punt and Bryant regained possession at its own 29 after a 10-yard return by Matt Brown. McCoy and Jameson teamed up on a 21-yard pass play to get the drive started. Four plays later, White burst up the middle on a trap play and raced 35 yards through the El Dorado secondary for a touchdown.
Nick Harbert kicked it to 10-0 with six minutes left in the opening quarter.
It took a fourth-down run of 3 yards by El Dorado’s Sharroyd McDaniel to produce the Wildcats’ initial first down. Three more plays netted one yard and another punt resulted.
The Hornets then drove from their own 9 to the El Dorado 15. McCoy completed three consecutive passes and White shredded the Wildcat defense for a 14 yard run. McCoy’s fourth straight completion, an 11-yard pass to flanker Josh Farmer would’ve given the Hornets a first down at the El Dorado 4 but the play was negated by penalty. Two plays later, Ault tried another 45-yard field goal but, this time, came up short.
The teams traded punts after that with El Dorado putting together its only drive of any consequence in the first half after that. The Wildcats, behind the running of reserve tailback Lemario Reed drove for their own 20 to the Bryant 13. But, on a second-and-5 there, Harris tried to sweep left end only to have Bryant safety Nick Black charge up and knock the ball free of his grasp. Though El Dorado’s Josh Bryant was able to recover at the 17, the Wildcats were unable to recover from the loss.
On the next play, quarterback Elliot Jacobs scrambled around trying to find an open receiver but the Hornets had them blanketed. As Jacobs got to the sideline, he tossed the ball forward and hit an official. A flag was thrown but the intentional grounding penalty was withdrawn.
As a result, El Dorado’s Brennan O’Donahoe, already commmitted to the University of Arkansas for his kicking prowess, attempted a 35-yard field goal. But it was wide right and the Hornets held the shutout at the half.
El Dorado got the ball to start the second half and, on a pair of runs by Harris, managed a first down at its 42. On the next play, however, the Wildcats tried to option. Bryant’s Aaron Mears crashed in on Jacobs and forced a bad pitch. Shawn Reynolds drilled Harris preventing him from jumping on the loose ball and Rose claimed it for the Hornets.
McCoy hit Farmer for a 29-yard completion to the 5. Two plunges by White reached the 1 where McCoy sneaked in for the TD behind center Joe Gould and guard Brad Roberts.
Harbert’s PAT made it 17-0.
El Dorado’s next possession ended in similar fashion. On first down, cornerback Jesse Jones charged up and dropped the Wildcats’ Michael Smith for a loss. Jacobs came back with a 14-yard completion to Taylor Magee but, on the next play, Jacobs went deep. His pass deflected off of his intended receiver Montaque Ridgell and there was Black with the interception at the Bryant 44.
On first down there, McCoy tossed a lateral outside to the right to Matt Brown who turned and threw down the left sideline to a wide-open White. The play went for 51 yards and set the Hornets up, first-and-goal, at the 5.
Bryant stalled there and a 23-yard field-goal attempt was blocked. El Dorado took over at its 13 with a hint of a momentum switch. The Wildcats managed to nudge out to the 36 though they needed a 12-yard pass completion on a screen play to convert a third-and-10.
On first down there, a busted play resulted in Jacobs being dropped for a loss. On second down, Andy Summers knifed through and tripped up the El Dorado quarterback for another loss.
On third and 20, the Wildcats tried the old hook-and-ladder play. Jacobs passed into the flat to Magee who lateraled to Harris, hoping to break a big play. But the Hornets snuffed it out. Magee was hit just as he caught the ball by Jones. He still got the lateral away, but Harris was almost immediately leveled by Bobby Winn. The play netted one yard and El Dorado had to punt again.
In turn, the Hornets drove from their own 37 to another score. McCoy passed to White for 26 yards then to Jameson for 20. On two of the next three plays, El Dorado’s frustration with trying to cover all the Bryant receivers reared up. Twice, the Wildcats were called for pass interference. Both penalties prevented touchdown receptions as Michael Wallace, then Matt Brown got open.
Eventually, McCoy got the touchdown on another sneak and, with 10:40 left to play, Bryant led 24-0.
Even then, El Dorado could not move the ball. Josh Baumbeck broke up a pass. Rose hauled down Ridgell with a nice open-field tackle on a 3-yard run then Jones had an interception but couldn’t hold on. On fourth-and-7, El Dorado tried a swing pass to tight end Michael Parker. Even if he hadn’t dropped it, the gain would’ve been well short of a first down.
Bryant took over and put the icing on the cake with a 46-yard drive in seven plays. McCoy completed all four of his passes including the finale to Jameson for the touchdown.
Harbert kicked it to 31-0.
Only then was El Dorado able to put together a scoring drive. Still, it took a big completion to Harris and, even after that, a 20-yard completion from Jacobs to tight end Kirs Borosvskis on a fourth-and-3 from the 23 to set up McDaniel’s 3-yard run for the score.
But by then the celebration of the large contingent of Bryant fans had already begun in the stands. After Patton had been showered with Gatorade at the end of the game and had talked to his team at midfield and the alma mater had been played, fans and parents congregated outside the Hornets lockerroom and cheered each player as he exited on his way to one of the buses that had been chartered for the trip.
Back home, well after midnight, the parade of Bryant buses was given a police escort into town.
Some kind of special.