Mustangs hold off Vilonia, 14-8
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
VILONIA — Generally, coaches tend to frown on football players that decide to disregard an assignment and do their own thing during a game. Daring decisions, taking a gamble — those things are usually the coaches’ realm. A player takes a chance and it doesn’t work out and he’s not only in the doghouse with his coach, he may be risking his team’s chances to win.
But once in a great while, it all works out.
Thursday night, the unbeaten Bryant Junior High Mustangs led the unbeaten Vilonia Junior Eagles 14-8 with time running out. Vilonia had the football and was driving, reaching the Bryant 30 with :36 left to play. On a third-and-8, Vilonia quarterback Nick Cowger dropped back to pass, looking to his left and deep. He never saw Scotty Lawrence coming.
Blitzing from his outside linebacker spot where he had been head-up on one of the Vilonia receivers, Lawrence, untouched, blasted Cowger with a form tackle that produced a seven-yard loss.
With no timeouts, the Eagles couldn’t stop the clock as they scrambled to attempt a fourth-down play. Cowger threw deep in desperation and safety Todd Bryan knocked it down as the game ended.
“I didn’t call it,” allowed Mustangs’ defensive coordinator Terry Harper. “I asked (Lawrence) about it and he said, ‘Coach, they’d been doing the same thing and I saw the chance and I just did it.’ I told him, ‘You better be glad it worked and that guy you were supposed to be covering didn’t catch a pass.’”
“The defense is playing good,” stated Mustangs head coach Scott Neathery. “They did well. The offense did well at times and sputtered at times. We’re just not getting it done. And that’s the frustrating part. If we do what we’re supposed to do, nobody should stop us. We’re just making mental errors and that’s the thing that upsets me.
“Our special teams are stinking right now,” he added. “We were giving them the ball on our side of the field all night long, kind of the same thing that happened at Sylvan Hills. We can’t play a ballgame on our side of the field all night.”
Still, the Mustangs found a way to win and that was consolation to Neathery and his staff. After all, it’s better to learn from a win than from a loss and now the Mustangs are 3-0 going into their game at home against Morrilton, their last outside of their division of the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference.
Though they only led 7-0 at the half, the Mustangs dominated, particularly with the defense which allowed just one first down and 25 yards of total offense, 12 of which came on one run by Vilonia’s Cory Mize.
Offensively, the Mustangs struggled to get the running game going for much of the game. In fact, fullback Brandon Spurr was held under 100 yards rushing for the first time this season. He wound up with 59 yards on 17 rushes.
But quarterback Scott Peeler had a good night, completing 12 of 20 passes for 170 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He completed his first four attempts including a 25-yarder to Bryan that keyed the Mustangs’ second possession which reached the Vilonia 15. From there, Bryan attempted a 34-yard field goal that was plenty long enough but just a tad wide to the right.
After a three-and-out by the Eagles, however, the Mustangs put together a 55-yard scoring drive, taking 10 plays that were either very production or not very. Peeler sneaked for three yards to convert a fourth-and-1 at the Vilonia 46 then, a play after almost being intercepted, connected with Zach Cardinal on a 28-yard pass to the Eagles 19.
Still, the Mustangs faced a fourth-and-6 at the 15 a few plays later. Peeler rolled out to his left and found Cardinal just beyond the goal line for the touchdown.
Bryan kicked it to 7-0.
The two teams traded turnovers in the late stages of the half.
The most glaring breakdown of the special teams came at the start of the second half when Vilonia’s Justin Shaw returned the kickoff 48 yards to the Bryant 37. With the help of a 15-yard run by Dustin Shaw and his 9-yard pass reception, the Eagles drove to the Bryant 8. There, however, the Mustangs broke through and forced Dustin Shaw to fumble. Kevin Carr recovered for Bryant at the 10.
In turn, the Mustangs were unable to pick up a first down against the charged-up Vilonia defense. Bryant punted but Peeler’s kick was short and Vilonia was back on offense at the Mustangs 39.
With the help of a pass interference penalty, the Eagles drove to the 4 where Dustin Shaw scored with :13 left in the third quarter.
He also added a run for a two-point conversion, giving Vilonia an 8-7 lead going into the final eight minutes.
That’s when the Mustangs’ offense stepped up. Bryan’s 24-yard kickoff return enabled them to begin their subsequent possession at their 44. Spurr finally broke out for a 17-yard run then a 5-yard burst. On a second-and-five at the Vilonia 34, Peeler perfectly placed a pass to the streaking Bryan on a post pattern that had him behind the Vilonia defense. He scored untouched with 7:11 left in the game.
Bryan added the point-after to make it 14-8.
Vilonia’s offense produced one yard in three plays and Bryant got the ball back with 6:12 to go. And the Mustangs ate up over three minutes driving to the Vilonia 23 where, on a fourth-and-one, Spurr was dropped short of the first down.
Vilonia took over with 2:51 left. A 27-yard run by Dustin Shaw on a draw play got the Eagles into Bryant territory. Another draw, this time with Justin Shaw carrying, converted a third-and-four as the Eagles reached the 32.
It looked like the Mustangs had stopped the drive on second-and-eight at the 30 when Peeler appeared to pick off a Cowger pass. The ball was called incomplete and, on the next play, Lawrence delivered the dooming blow.