Hornets soar higher than Rockets, 49-28
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
Tad Farmer and Tanner Francis have more in common than their initials.
In fact, they are not unlike many of the seniors on the Bryant Hornets football team this year. They’ve bided their time, some playing hardly at all for two years.
Now is their time to shine.
And shine they did Friday night in a 49-28 romp over the Little Rock Catholic Rockets at Bryant Stadium. Farmer completed 20-of-28 passes for 304 yards and four touchdowns and Francis grabbed seven of those aerials for 118 of the yards and three of the scores as the Hornets rolled up 440 yards of offense and the most points by a Bryant team in, at least, the last 27 years (that’s how far back records are complete on game scores).
It was the first victory as a high school head coach for Daryl Patton.
“I hope there’s many more,” he laughed, obviously pleased. “The kids — playing Conway last week, they played hard for a half, let down in the second half. We got their attention a little bit this week. We had a hard week of practice. I mean, we got after it pretty hard. And the kids responded. They came out fired up, with enthusiasm — not so much of the emotion, highs and lows, but with a great level of enthusiasm and intensity and got after it pretty good.”
Indeed, the Hornets scored on every possession in the first half plus, the defense tacked on a TD when safety Josh Farmer (Tad’s little brother) returned a fumble 41 yards to paydirt. Bryant led 36-14 at halftime then scored on the first possession of the third quarter.
It helped that the ground game got revved up this week. With senior fullback Jacky Brown still hobbled by a bad ankle, halfback Billy Landers moved to fullback, alternating with Aaron Mears, and rushed for 91 yards on 12 carries. Mears added 27 on six tries.
“The offensive line blocked great,” Patton noted. “They gave Tad all the time in the world. We didn’t have any sacks and just one or two pressures.”
The big senior signal-caller completed passes to six different receivers.
“I thought the receivers made some great catches,” Patton remarked. “I thought Tad threw the ball exceptionally well and I was proud to see our running game clicking a little bit. Billy did a great job, but I can’t wait for Jacky to back healthy.”
Defensive coordinator Steve Griffith was pleased with his guys too, to a point.
“I was real pleased with the first quarter and a half,” he stated. “We had real good intensity, we were hitting and locking up. We made some mental mistakes on the (Catholic) drive midway through the second quarter and had three big penalties on one drive — basically, gave ’em the drive. Then, we seemed to lose our intensity. What we’ve got to work on defensively is maintaining the intensity throughout the whole ballgame.”
No doubt, the 29-0 lead at that point contributed to the drop in intensity, but Griffith was adamant.
“We’ve got to discipline ourselves and we’ve got to maintain that discipline throughout the ballgame,” he emphasized. “We can’t play hard for a quarter and a half, two quarters then let up and relax. We have to stay after it.”
The defense forced a punt on the first Catholic series, opening the game. A short punt gave the Hornets possession at their own 44. Mixing the running game with short pass routes, they used 13 plays. They converted a pair of third downs and a fourth down along the way. On a third-and-2 at the Catholic 48, Farmer and Francis combined on a 6-yard pass; on a third-and-10 at the 42, Farmer found sophomore Luke Brown for just enough yardage for the new set of downs; then, on fourth-and-4 at the 26, sophomore Matt Brown latched onto a Farmer pass for 13 yards.
The drive concluded with Landers’ 7-yard bolt up the middle.
The Hornets then worked the proverbial swinging gate play for a two-point conversion run by Landers to make it 8-0.
In turn, Catholic drove from its own 14 to the Bryant 30. But the Hornet defense called a halt to the march at that point when three plays at the 30 netted nothing.
The Rockets turned the ball over on downs with :46 left in the first quarter.
And, despite opening the possession with a 15-yard penalty for offensive interference (which negated a 70-yard pass completion), the Hornets drove for their second score. The key play came right after the penalty when the Farmer-Francis connection picked up 22 yards. Mears picked up the first down with a 4-yard run and, two plays later, Farmer found Francis again down the right sideline. Francis grabbed the ball at the 20 and broke four or five tackles on the way to the end zone.
Josh Ault’s extra point kick made it 15-0.
Catholic, in turn, was forced to punt and the Hornets started their next touchdown drive at their own 22. It took eight plays to go the distance. A 27-yard completion from Farmer to Landers was a highlight of the drive which culminated with a 19-yard pass, catch and run from Farmer to Matt Brown.
Helped along by a defensive holding penalty, Catholic picked up a first down on its next possession, but on a second-and-7 at the Rocket 49, an option pitch from quarterback Freddie Baker to halfback Matt Scroggin was knocked out of Scroggin’s hands. A host of Hornets had a shot at the recovery but Josh Farmer was the first to it. He scooped it up at the 41 and, with a convoy of blockers, raced to the end zone for the touchdown.
Ault’s PAT made it 29-0 with 4:44 still to play in the first half.
Catholic then got on the board for the first time. A 20-yard pass from Baker to Brian Thurow started the drive but then Baker was dropped for a 4-yard loss only to have a personal foul against Bryant produce a new set of downs. On nothing other than a pass interference and a defensive holding on consecutive plays — the latter negating an interception by Bobby Winn — the Rockets reached the Bryant 11. From there, fullback Paul Barron scored with 3:49 left in the half.
And the Rockets then recovered an onside kick at the Bryant 47. Two more Barron runs and the scored was 29-14 with 3:21 to go.
Barron finished with 124 yards on 21 carries for the Rockets who wound up riddling the Hornets for 273 yards on the ground.
But Bryant had a quick answer, a nine-play, 67-yard march that left just :30 in the half. Landers started the drive with three straight carries for the initial first down. Then, after an incomplete pass, Farmer connected on four in a row. The big gain was a 23-yard play to sophomore Mark Medlin. Luke Brown caught an 11-yarder then Francis nabbed one for 15 down to the Rockets 4. Mears caught a swing pass and was caught just short of the goal. On the next play, Luke Brown plunged over for the TD. Ault made it a 50-point half between the teams and a 28-point quarter for Bryant.
The Hornets picked right back up where they left off in the second half. Their opening possession began at their 44. Matt Brown’s 40-yard catch and run set up a 16-yard TD strike to Francis who made another tackle-breaker run after making the catch at the 10.
Trailing 43-14, Catholic ground out an answering touchdown drive of 67 yards in 16 plays. Halfback Jeb Neel scored from the 5.
In turn, the Hornets, backed up to their own 14 by an illegal block on the kickoff, were forced to punt for the first time in the game with just over two minutes left in the third quarter. A low snap enabled Catholic to get a hand on Derek McCoy’s kick, but the ball still managed to reach the 47.
And the Hornets’ defense held, forcing Catholic to turn the ball over on downs at the 41.
An exchange of punts ensued, but on the Rockets’ next kick, a roughing the kicker penalty produced a first down and kept a drive alive that eventually produced a 1-yard touchdown dive by Barron that finished the Rockets’ scoring in the game with 9:14 left to play.
The Hornets then proceeded to put the finishing touches on the win with an 80-yard march highlighted by Landers’ 36-yard run that only a shoestring tackle at the Catholic 28 prevented from being a touchdown. Four plays later, however, the Farmer-Francis connection put up the points.
The Hornets had a shot at making it a 50-point game, but Ault’s extra-point try was wide left.
“We’ve got a chance to be an awfully good football team,” Patton declared, “especially on the offensive side of the ball. Defensively, like Coach Griffith said, we’ve got to work on the intensity level, keep it up for four quarters. But I have total confidence in our defensive staff and I have all the confidence in the world in our defensive players. We’re going to get better.
“I thought we showed some signs of improvement over the first game. We just need to see that same improvement for the next week.”
The Hornets play their first road game of the season this week when they travel to Malvern.