Hornets rally to tie Southside
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
FORT SMITH — Bryant Hornets head football coach Paul Calley was making his way from his team’s locker room at Fort Smith Southside towards the team buses when a group of Southside Rebels players hollered his way, “Good job in the second half, coach.”
Calley, without breaking stride, answered, “Thanks, guys. We had to do something to make up for that first half.”
The two teams had just battled to a 21-21 draw. Southside, taking advantage of four Bryant turnovers, had built a 21-0 lead by halftime but the Hornets made an impressive comeback late in the third quarter and in the fourth and, thanks to a blocked punt by Logan Cruse, had a chance to win in the final seconds only to have a bad snap undermine the timing on a 38-yard field goal attempt by Austin Bradley.
“I would really love to forget the first half,” Calley stated after the game. “I don’t think we did anything right.
“I kind of felt it on the way up and after we got here, there was some focus but not the kind of focus you need to have to compete against a football team like Fort Smith Southside,” he added. “Turns out, I was right. We weren’t focused and that’s my fault. There’s no other way to put it but on my shoulders. Just got to hope that next week, I can get them ready to play. I definitely did not do it in the first half tonight.”
The Hornets open 7A-Conference play at home against Little Rock Catholic on Friday, Sept. 21.
Searching recent Hornets history for a comparable half, Calley recalled the night in West Memphis in the 2002 playoffs with an icy gale sweeping across the field when the Hornets fell behind 27-0 in the first quarter only to rally to within 41-35 at the end.
“I’m definitely proud of the heart we showed in the second half,” he asserted. “The kids were just as embarrassed as the coaches were. That doesn’t happen to us very often.”
Besides the turnovers, the Hornets were plagued by poorly-timed penalties — seven of them for 56 yards in the first half, 11 for 91 altogether.
“A lot of it, we did do,” Calley said. “It was mistakes on our part. We couldn’t hang onto the ball. I mean, I don’t even want to watch the tape. And there were so many flipping penalties called tonight. One time we had too many men on the field and they marked off 10 yards then marked off five more.”
The difference in the second half?
“We did not change anything,” the coach stated. “(Defensive coordinator) Coach (Steve) Griffith made an adjustment to put the defensive end on their wheel route out of the backfield. They still did a good job scheme-wise to hit that again in the second half. But, offensively, we didn’t change anything. We were still doing what we tried to do in the first half. We just did it. On defense, we gave up big plays and we don’t usually give up that many big plays in a year.”
The Hornets found themselves down 14-0 before you could say, “Clay Borengasser.”
On the first play from scrimmage, quarterback Logan Parker and running back Aspen Trevino missed connections on a handoff and Southside recovered. Borengasser, Southside’s senior quarterback, immediately went to the air, completing a 31-yard pass to Spencer Tooley to the Bryant 4. Running back Anthony Warren scored from there on the next play.
Cruse returned the ensuing kickoff 52 yards to get the Hornets into Southside territory but the subsequent offensive series was undermined by a motion penalty as the Hornets continued to look totally out of sync. A good punt by Austin Humbard went into the end zone and Southside went to work on offense again. After picking up a first with the help of another Bryant penalty, Borengasser did a great job of selling the run on a play-action pass and threw deep to Tooley, resulting in a 67-yard touchdown.
The game wasn’t yet three minutes old and the Rebels had their 14-point lead.
An interception ended Bryant’s next possession then the two teams settled into an exchange of punts.
The Hornets finally got their initial first down with under two minutes left in the opening quarter. They drove from their own 14 to the Southside 49 when they were flagged for having too many on the field, negating a 6-yard run by Parker. Before the next snap, Bryant was flagged for procedure and, on a third-and-29, Parker’s long pass was intercepted by Tony Thompson at the Rebels 34, a play that served as well as a punt.
But a 28-yard run by Daniel McGee was followed by a 25-yard pass from Borengasser to running back Damon Lawson to get to the 6. Two plays later, Borengasser snuck it into the end zone to make it 21-0.
The Hornets made a bid to get on the scoreboard, driving from their own 28 to the Southside 8. The key play of the drive was a reverse pass in which Parker lateraled to wide receiver Tim Floyd. In turn, Floyd threw deep to Taylor Masters for a 31-yard completion to the 14.
Masters, by the way, had a stellar game, with 13 receptions for 111 yards.
The Hornets faced a fourth-and-4 at the 8 and Parker completed a pass to Floyd but it came up a yard short of a first down.
The half ended after both defenses came up with interceptions.
It was still 21-0 midway through the third quarter when a nice defensive stand, capped by a 9-yard sack of Borengasser by Dylan Chism and Raylen Cantrell at the Rebel 17, helped turn the momentum Bryant’s way.
A short punt gave the Hornets the ball at the Rebs’ 45. As it had all night, it was a chore for the Hornets to put the drive together but they finally broke through. Parker hit short passes to Masters then broke a keeper for 19 yards to the 9. Two penalties pushed Bryant back to the 23 but a splendid throw by Parker and catch by Jake Jackson got them back to the 1 and, on fourth and goal, Trevino scored with :55 left in the third.
Southside answered with a solid drive to the Bryant 16. Borengasser’s 22-yard pass to Tooley and a 15-yard run on a reverse by T.J. Young were the big plays of the drive. But the Bryant defense stepped up. Linebacker Ethan Passmore stopped McGee for no gain and, after an incomplete pass, end Nathan Probst dropped Borengasser after a 1-yard gain when he had to scramble due to good coverage in the secondary by the Hornets.
Angelo Rodriguez came on to attempt a 37-yard field goal but the kick was wide.
The comeback continued when Parker hit all four of his passes on the ensuing drive including a fourth-down completion to Jackson on the right sideline. A Southside defender broke on the ball and went for an interception but the pass was well placed beyond his reach. Jackson kept his concentration and hauled it in, turned up field and sprinted down the sideline. An defender coming from away from the play appeared to have the angle on the Bryant receiver but Jackson beat the angle then, from just inside the 5, dove headlong toward the goal line getting in just inside the pylon as he was hit.
The 62-yard play, along with Bradley’s extra point, cut the lead to 21-14 with 6:07 still to play. Jackson, who caught five passes for 110 yards, was named the Regions Bank Offensive Player of the Game on Bryant radio.
The Defensive Player of the Game came up with Southside’s second turnover moments later. On first down from the 33, Warren, running off right tackle, was hit and the ball was knocked loose. Jordan Knight, who had earlier come up with an interception, scooped up the loose ball and returned to the 29 to put the Hornets in position to tie the game.
Parker, who finished 21-of-32 for 214 yards through the air with 54 yards on 14 carries on the ground, completed a 14-yard pass to Jackson. Two plays later, Trevino slashed through the Rebels defense for the touchdown.
With 4:06 still to play and the momentum all his team’s way, Calley had Bradley kick the extra point to tie it, figuring his defense would give the team a chance to get the ball back and win.
And they did.
First, it was special teams. Bradley’s knuckleball kick eluded T.J. Young inside the 5 and he could only return the kick to the 6. The Hornets stuffed the first run from there but then Warren broke a 17-yarder and, later, Borengasser passed 14 yards to Cameron Young to get Southside out to the 39. But three subsequent passes fell incomplete as time dwindled down to 0:43.
Southside was forced to punt and the Hornets went for the block and got it with Cruse nearly leaping over a Rebels blocker to nail it. The Hornets recovered at the 33 with all three of their timeouts remaining.
With 0:29 left, Parker kept to the 28 but flags flew. Bryant was whistled for holding but Southside was cited for a personal foul. After both penalties were marked off, Bryant had a first down at the Southside 27.
Parker completed a 5-yard pass to Masters but the Hornets gave that back with a penalty with 0:18 showing. Parker kept two more times to get the ball as close as possible without risking a turnover, and to get the ball in the center of the field as much as he could.
Bryant called its final timeout with 0:09 showing and brought on the field goal unit. But Southside used both of its timeouts to make the Hornets think about it. But Bradley never really had a chance to get a good piece of the ball. The kick was low into the line and ricocheted harmlessly into the end zone.
With 0:06 left, Southside got one last play but a pass to Young that might’ve been intended to be a hook-and-lateral was stopped cold at the 27 and the clock ran out leaving both teams 2-0-1.