Hornets establish superiority early vs. Jacksonville
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
When a coaching staff is confronted with the Bryant Hornets offense this season, it’s a matter of the old “pick your poison” situation. Do you stack your defense near the line of scrimmage — with seven or eight players “in the box” (the area five yards off the ball) — to try to stop the running game which features a speedy game-breaker like Matt White? Do you stay back, load up your secondary in hopes of slowing down the passing game? Or do you play it straight and use the blitz in hopes of disrupting the passing game and, by chance, clogging up the running lanes?
The problem is, the Hornets have answers for each of those scenarios.
On Friday, Sept. 14, the Jacksonville Red Devils decided the first of those tactics was the one they’d take. By halftime, they regretted it.
Junior quarterback Lance Parker picked the Devils apart, completing 11 of his first 12 passes as the Hornets rolled to a 31-0 halftime lead that held up for a 31-6 victory.
White, who had rushed for over 300 yards in two previous games, picked up 55 yards on 11 carries in the first half despite an ankle sprain. He did not play in the second half.
In fact, few of the starters played much after halftime.
Jacksonville, which rolled up 56 points the previous week against North Pulaski, was limited to 39 yards of total offense and just two first downs in the first half. The Red Devils’ starters got something going late as the Hornets mixed and matched their personnel late and finished with 194 yards of total offense, all but 2 yards came on the ground.
“The kids played awfully well,” stated Hornets head coach Daryl Patton. “Lance threw the ball well. I think he’s growing up minute by minute. He showed a lot of poise. Even when he had to scramble and move out of the pocket, he still had enough poise to keep his eyes downfield and find open receivers.”
Parker wound up with 217 yards passing on 19 completions in 25 attempts with a touchdown and an interception. He was 3-for-3 in the first possession of the second half then came out of the game with sophomore Scott Peeler taking over the rest of the way. Peeler, who caught a touchdown pass, completed 2-of-5 the rest of the way with an interception.
Bryant scored on its first four possessions. After Jacksonville netted one yard in three plays then punted to start the game, the Hornets took over at their own 46. White got loose on a 23-yard run then Parker went to work. He hit A.J. Nixon for 7 yards then tossed a swing pass into the left flat to Peeler. With big downfield blocks by Nixon and Zach Cardinal, Peeler turned the short pass into a 19-yard touchdown play.
Jacksonville managed just 4 yards in three plays on its next possession. Bryant answered with an 11-play march to paydirt, covering 63 yards. The springboard was a 25-yard strike from Parker to Nixon. The Hornets went on to convert three third-down situations along the way. A third-and-6 at the Jacksonville 21 was converted with a 12-yard pass from Parker to Nixon. A play later, Parker’s swing pass to Brandon St.Pierre broke. St.Pierre just missed getting into the end zone. He was tackled at the 1, but Jason Rose burrowed in from there on the next play.
The Devils, who didn’t gain a first down on offense until there was just 3:39 left in the half, punted to the Hornets again. In turn, Bryant covered 56 yards in three plays. Jonathan Jameson ran for 9, Parker passed to Jameson for 19 then, on the flanker reverse, Nixon scored on a 28-yard run to make it 21-0.
A 68-yard march in 10 plays made it 28-0. Parker was 4 of 4 passing and white contributed a 16-yard run. A 14-yard completion to Cardinal got the Hornets to the 1. White, running behind Rose, the team’s leading tackler at middle linebacker, and defensive tackle turned fullback Josh White, scored on the next play.
A 10-yard run by Shawn Conway finally produced Jacksonville’s initial first down moments later, but with 3:08 left in the half, the Devils’ quarterback Chris Rodriguez fumbled and Josh White recovered.
The teams traded interceptions — Rose got the oskie for Bryant — and Bryant put together a last-minute drive for another score. With :04.5 left, Matt Sullivan drilled a 25-yard field goal to make it 31-0.
A pair of turnovers sabotaged Bryant’s first two drives of the second half, both inside the Jacksonville 20.
The Red Devils finally put together an 80-yard march for their lone score. Bryan Noble’s 10-yard run with 9:07 left did the trick.
“The offensive line did a good job,” Patton noted, “and our defense, I really feel like, if we had kept our starters in, we would probably have had a shutout. They were really playing well.”
It was the last non-conference game for the 3-0 Hornets. This week, they play their traditional AAAAA-South Conference opener against the rival Sheridan Yellowjackets.
“The real season starts,” Patton said. “We’ve got a tough one in Sheridan. It doesn’t matter that we’re 3-0 and they’re 0-3 or vice versa, it’s going to be a battle. It’s just a backyard brawl. The last three years no matter which has the best team, it’s been a one-point game, so that’s what we’re expecting. It’ll be a dogfight.”