By Rob Patrick
BENTON — The Bryant White Hornets eighth grade team of Bryant Middle School had three possessions[more] in the second half of their season-finale against the rival Benton Panthers at C.W. Lewis Tuesday night.
None of them ended well.
After staking out a 6-0 lead in the first half, the Hornets had one turnover cost them a chance to extend the margin then had another that led to the Panthers’ tying touchdown and go-ahead extra point with 4:14 left in the game.
Bryant White’s last-ditch effort to reclaim the lead reached Benton’s 48 only to have the Panthers’ defense break through for back-to-back losses, which ended the threat and preserved their 7-6 win.
It was a frustrating night for Bryant White as its season concluded with a 4-4 record.
The Hornets’ first half scoring drive was impressive. The two teams had traded punts with Benton grabbing a field position advantage. After the Panthers’ second punt, Bryant White found itself at its own 10.
But sparked by a 12-yard run on first down by De’Amonte Terry, they proceeded to drive 90 yards in 10 plays. The only third-down situation on the march came from their own 27. Needing 5 yards, they got 8 on a bubble screen that quarterback Beaux Bonvillain threw to Jake East who sliced his way to the 35 for a new set of downs.
A pair of tough runs by Cameron Coleman got to the 47 and set up the big play of the drive, a 39-yard gallop by fullback Hayden Knowles.
From the 14, Coleman slashed to the 5 and, a play later, he capped off the march with a 2-yard plunge.
A try for 2 failed, however, leaving it 6-0.
The Hornets’ defense responded by holding on a third-and-1 then again on a fourth-and-2. Both runs by Benton’s Brandon Hunter lost yardage. On the third-down try, Coleman, Chase Fox and Will Roberts converged to make the stop. On the second, Coleman made the hit that denied Hunter.
With 1:21 left in the half, the Hornets took over on downs at their own 45. A second-down pass by Bonvillain nearly connected for a big gain but the ball was just off the fingertips of tight end Garrett Misenheimer.
The Hornets ran out of downs with :33.9 left but, on Benton’s first play from the Bryant White 40, quarterback Preston Stone’s long pass was intercepted by Landon Smith.
The Hornets got the football to start the second half and, from their own 44, drove to the 10 in short order. Terry dashed for 12 yards then Knowles matched that. Terry took his turn and ripped 22 yards to the 10.
But, on the next play, the first fumble occurred and Benton’s Braylon Alcorn came away with it, keeping it 6-0.
Benton put together a good drive into Bryant White territory, mostly on the work of Hunter and the offensive line. The Hornets got a bad break when, on a fourth-down run by Hunter, the ball came loose after he picked up the first down. Jassim Lee appeared to recover for the Hornets but Hunter was erroneously ruled down before the ball came loose.
Later, at the Hornets’ 33, there was another fumble, this time retained by the Panthers. It cost 3 yards and it proved to be enough to sidetrack the march. Hunter picked up 5 on second down but his third-down try was stopped cold by Knowles. So when Stone’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete the Hornets’ defense had turned aside the threat.
But on the second play of the Bryant White possession, there came another fumble. This time, Benny Walters recovered for the Panthers at the Hornets’ 35.
Benton would score in four plays, runs of 12, 11 and 8 by Hunter then a 4-yard keeper by Stone. Matt Warrick drilled the extra point that would prove to be the difference.
Bryant White gave itself a chance to rally thanks to a 26-yard pass play from Bonvillain to East. Coleman crashed 14 yards to midfield but the drive stalled there. After Coleman got 3 on first down, a second-down pass fell incomplete.
On third down, Benton’s Chandler Clift crashed through into the Bryant White backfield and dropped Coleman for a loss of 6, setting up a desperate fourth-down.
Bonvillain set up to pass but before he could get a throw away, he was sacked.
The ball came loose but it didn’t matter who recovered because either way, Benton had the ball.
By using his timeouts, Hornets’ coach Brad Smothermon tried to get his offense one more chance but Stone’s 13-yard run on first down didn’t help. The defense still forced a third-and-4 at the Bryant White 17 but, after using the final timeout, the Hornets were flagged for being offsides. The mark-off provided enough yardage for a first down and the Panthers were able to run out the rest of the clock.
For the Hornets, Terry finished with 54 yards on 10 carries. Knowles added 51 yards on three tries and Coleman 38 stripes on 12 attempts. Bonvillain finished 4 of 7 for 29 yards.
For Benton, Hunter piled up 92 yards on 16 carries. The Panthers never completed a pass but finished with 135 yards of total offense to Bryant White’s 162.