Salt Bowl 13 brings 40th renewal of Bryant-Benton rivalry tonight

By Rob Patrick

There’s reason to believe that the Bryant Hornets came of age in their 19-18 win over[more] the Little Rock Catholic Rockets last Friday.

Consider that the defense, after giving up a 17-play, 77-yard drive to open the game, held the Rockets to just 116 yards of total offense the rest of the game and limited them to just 10 points despite four turnovers in their own end.

And the offense, after suffering three of those four turnovers (the other was on a kickoff return), put together a game-winning drive on its last possession of the game to produce the narrow come-from-behind victory.

The Hornets hope to carry that over to their 7A/6A-South Conference opener against the arch-rival Benton Panthers tonight in the 13th Salt Bowl at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

“We were a little flat on the first series and allowed (Catholic) to drive the length of the field,” acknowledged Hornets defensive coordinator Steve Griffith, looking back to last week’s game. “They converted a couple of situations and you have to take your hat off to them.

“We came to the sideline and met and decided we were going to play a little harder the rest of the way,” he mentioned, “and I was really proud of the effort from that point forward.

“Hopefully, we realize that when we play with great intensity we can have a pretty good defense,” the coach continued. “I felt like we did that throughout the remainder of the game. The situation, in the fourth quarter, being able to make a couple of stops when we needed to, that’s always big, when you get your back against the wall and to be able to get a stop or hold them to a field goal or whatever the situation. Hopefully, the kids will grow as a group and realize that, hey, we can do some pretty special things.”

Offensive coordinator Lance Parker assessed, “We made a lot more mistakes but I thought we played better. I think we needed a little bit of adversity right at the beginning of the season — we had some with Conway — but I felt like Catholic did some things that made us adjust. I think it’s really good for us to have to do that. What I was most pleased with, when stuff wasn’t going and it was starting to get late in the game and we had one more opportunity, that’s when the players made the plays.

“That’s really what it’s all about,” he emphasized. “They just found a way to make it happen. I think they’re getting more mature. They’re getting comfortable with what we’re doing. We’re doing the same things week to week and as they get used to it then they’re just going to get better and better at it. I’ve been pleased.

“I thought the offensive line made a little bit of progress,” Parker noted. “Catholic is not small or weak by any means and they had to deal with a lot of different pressures and stunts. Having (the offensive line) see all that helps them to develop. They did a great job with protection. I think we only had a few breakdowns, picking up blitzers from every spot. I was really pleased with how the offensive line played.

“Our receivers made some big catches. (Quarterback Hayden) Lessenberry made some throws and missed some throws but the one that counted, he hit. That’s what you want. That’s what you practice for.”

Of Benton’s defense, Parker said, “Benton’s going to bring a lot of size up front. I think they’re pretty good in their linebacking corps. They’ve got a couple of guys — the middle linebacker (Carson Holloway) and the Sam linebacker (Cole Glover) — that really have a nose for the ball and they’re real aggressive. Our guys are going to have to come to work to be able to block those guys.

“We’ve got to make sure we get lined up and know our assignments,” he stated. “I think we’ve got a good plan. I think they’ll be a little bend-but-don’t-break and make us convert some third downs. We’ve got to be consistent and not turn the ball over.”

Griffith assessed his defense’s challenges against the Panthers’ offense, saying, “They create a problem because they have a couple of really good athletes then they have some other very solid guys. We need to work hard to contain their good athletes and try to get more three-and-outs, situations where we get off the field pretty quick and get our offense back out there.”

The playmakers Griffith referred to are quarterback Tarek Beaugard and running back Wallace Foote.

“Because they do run some option, which you don’t see a lot of teams doing these days, they force you to play disciplined, assignment football,” he added. “We’ve worked hard on that this week and hopefully we’ll be up to that challenge.”

The Hornets come into the game with a 2-1 record after opening with a loss to Conway then defeating Little Rock Central and edging Catholic.

The Panthers are 1-2 with a win over Jacksonville sandwiched by losses to Arkadelphia and Greenbrier.

Benton holds a 24-14-1 overall series record against Bryant but the Hornets have won six in a row over the Panthers and, since the advent of the Salt Bowl trophy presentation in 2000, the Hornets hold a 10-1-1 advantage.


2012 unofficial stats through 3 games

Score by quarters

Opponent 7 21 0 18 — 46

BRYANT 17 23 3 7 — 50

Team stats

Oppt Bryant

First downs 37 34

Rushes-yds 91-480 67-141

Passing 20-44-4 34-58-2

Passing yds 166 408

Fumbles-lost 5-2 3-2

Penalties-yds 14-123 12-103


Rushing: J.Bell 27-121, Irby 14-30, Hunter 3-11, Hill 1-5, Powell 2-4, Akers 2-2, Lessenberry 18-(-35).

Passing (C-A-I-Y): Lessenberry 34-58-2-408 (4 TDs).

Hill 11-183, Hunter 7-76, Howard 6-86, Powell 5-31, J.Bell 3-30, Akers 1-9.

Scoring: Hill 18 (3 td-p), Lowery 12 (2 for 2 fg {43, 36}, 6 of 6 PATs), J.Bell 6 (1 td-r), Howard 6 (1 td-p), Johnson 6 (1 td-int.ret), Kelly 2 (1 safety).

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