Photos by Kevin Nagle
LITTLE ROCK — Through three quarters, the Bryant Hornets and the Pulaski Academy Bruins amassed over 800 yards of offense but it was a pair of defensive plays, interceptions that Ben Bruick and Brenden Young returned for touchdowns that broke up what might’ve otherwise been a stalemate in a pre-season scrimmage at War Memorial Stadium on Tuesday night.
At the end of the three periods, Bryant had outscored the high-flying Bruins 42-35. In an eight-minute scrimmage between each team’s junior varsity squads, the Hornets added another touchdown drive engineered by senior quarterback Madison Schrader and capped off by a 7-yard touchdown run by Michael Martindale.
During the varsity workout, Kylon Boyle, Savonte Turner and Brushawn Hunter each had touchdown runs as the Hornets rushed for 267 yards on 46 attempts (almost 6 yards a snap) and Brandan Warner threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Paul Tierney.
The Bruins, meanwhile, were piling up 407 yards passing. Will Hefley was 21 of 31 for 370 yards and four touchdowns. Tre Bruce added a 37-yard touchdown pass. But Hefley threw both picks, though one was kind of a fluke.
The scrimmage (which did not include live kicking game) was tied 28-28 in the third quarter. Bryant’s offense, which was really only stopped by itself, was marching up the field when, on a first-and-10 at the P.A. 38, a fumble cost them possession. It was the Hornets’ lone turnover.
Pulaski Academy was working its way back upfield when, from the Bryant 32, Hefley tossed a pass into the flat that went off of his receiver’s hands, apparently off his foot and into the arms of Bruick, who sprinted 72 yards for a touchdown.
On the Bruins’ very next play from their own 20, Hefley tried to go deep down the right side only to have Young close on the ball, pick it off in stride and make his way down the sideline for a 43-yard touchdown that made it 42-28.
Unfazed, as usual, the Bruins, a perennial powerhouse, drove 80 yards in four plays to close the gap. But their defense could not slow down the Hornets running game. Bryant ate up the final 2:44 by driving from their own 20 to the Bruins 28. The march featured the running of junior quarterback Gunnar Burks and Turner. The lone pass was a 13-yard completion to Schrader.
The Hornets, who open the regular season on Friday, Sept. 5, with the annual Salt Bowl against the rival Benton Panthers right back at War Memorial, got off to a fast start on Tuesday, building a 14-0 lead. The defense forced a three-and-out creating a short field — Pulaski Academy does not punt no matter where they are on the field — that set up the first score. Four runs by Boyle covered the ground. He scored from the 2.
On the Bruins’ next snap, the Hornets forced a fumble that linebacker Kyle Lovelace recovered 29 yards from paydirt. Warner was 3 for 3 passing on the drive including the TD strike to Tierney.
During the varsity scrimmage, Warner and Burks combined to go 10 of 11 passing for 70 yards.
Pulaski Academy picked up its initial first down on its third possession. The Bruins drove to the Bryant 32 but, on a fourth-and-2, running back Myles Fells was stopped for no gain by Bryant’s Cameron Murray, Connor Chapdelaine and Kameron Guillory.
Penalties undermined the Hornets subsequent possession and they wound up punting. The Bruins drove 69 yards for its first score, aided by a major penalty that converted a third-and-12 after Hefley’s pass had sailed over his intended receiver. It wound up taking a 37-yard pass on a fourth down to get the points.
The Hornet offense was driving again in response but a sack on a first down at their own 44 was took much to overcome. After another punt, the Bruins tied it on one play, a screen pass from Hefley that Fells broke for 74 yards.
In turn, Bryant put together a 14-play, 80-yard march to regain the lead. Boyle got it started and Turner (14 carries, 72 yards) finished it with a 5-yard run. Along the way, Warner completed passes to Hunter, Tierney and Boyle.
And when the Bryant defense forced the Bruins to turn the ball over on downs at the Bryant 45, Hunter, on his only rush of the night, sliced through the right side and out-ran the defense on a 55-yard touchdown glide, which made it 28-14.
Moments later, however, Hefley and Will Hastings combined on a 66-yard completion. Mark Nelson saved the touchdown with a tackle at the 5 but, a play later, Hefley tossed a 3-yard TD pass to Grant Pickle with :46 left in the half.
The Hornets ran out the clock with three nice runs by Boyle who rushed for 37 yards on 16 carries. To start the second half, Bryant went three-and-out for the only time in the game when a third-and-2 run by Turner was sniffed out for a loss.
Punted back to their 37, the Bruins scored to tie it on three plays. The bulk of the yardage came on a swing pass to Jacory McMillain, which covered 47 yards. A play later, Bruce caught Hefley’s 13-yard touchdown pass to tie it up.
The flurry of turnovers followed.
In the eight-minute JV scrimmage, Young intercepted another pass and the Hornets drove 55 yards in seven plays, overcoming a holding penalty along the way. DeAmonte Terry contributed runs of 15, 14 and 21 yards. He also caught a 9-yard pass from Schrader before Martindale found the end zone.
The scrimmage didn’t begin until 8:30 p.m. Jonesboro and Little Rock Catholic scrimmaged before Bryant and Pulaski Academy. It was around 11 when the evening concluded.