Hornets hammer Malvern
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
Here’s the thing about the Bryant Hornets’ no-huddle offense:
It’s not a hurry-hurry tactic and it’s not necessarily to keep the other team from making changes in its defensive personnel — though that’s a nice by-product sometimes. The Hornets use the no-huddle offense so they can see how the opponent’s defense is set up before they call a play, so they can call plays based on what the defense is doing.
Assistant coach Paul Calley, who shares offensive coordinator duties with head coach Daryl Patton, views a game from the pressbox. Along with Bryant Junior High head coach Scott Neathery, Calley watches as the Hornets line up on offense to see how the defense of, say, the Malvern Leopards, sets up in response. He relays that info to Patton on the sideline via two-way radio and a play is decided upon based on what the defense is set up to stop. Patton signals in to quarterback Derik McCoy who makes sure all the other Hornets know what’s been called and, before the 25-second play clock expires, the Hornets run the play against a defense that’s been set and waiting to play for 15 or 20 seconds.
So far, any observer would have to say the Hornets’ tactics have worked splendidly. Malvern was convinced Friday night as the Hornets, playing their first home game of the season, drubbed the Leopards 41-8.
They could’ve scored 60.
The win improved Bryant to 3-0 this season, the best start by a Hornet team since 1995. The Hornets open AAAAA-South Conference play this Friday with their homecoming game against the Sheridan Yellowjackets.
Bryant and Sheridan are the only teams in the league that have yet to lose this season.
Despite the lopsided score, Bryant actually didn’t look as sharp offensively against Malvern as it did in wins over Conway and Little Rock Catholic on the road, particularly in the first half.
“I’m not making excuses,” said Patton, “but our headsets were messing up. I was having trouble communicating with coach Calley. What we want to do is line up on the football, then he sees things from the press box, he relays it to me and we relay it to Derik. The way it worked tonight, I was having difficulty getting it from coach Calley, the (play) clock was running and then we were in a hurry throwing the play out there. I think it kind of threw us off just a little bit. We were just a little out of sync.”
Patton added that scoring a touchdown on their first play from scrimmage may have had its affect on the Hornets.
“That may have given the guys a false impression like, you know, this is going to be an easy game,” he explained.
“But that’s all good,” he added. “We need to overcome adversity. Malvern came right down the field and scored, went for two and we were trailing. I’m proud of the fact that our kids overcame the adversity and played hard. We’ve got to play a little bit smarter offensively. We had turnovers.”
As it was, the Hornets amassed over 400 yards of offense for the second game in a row. Luke Brown led the way with 110 yards rushing on 11 carries. Matt White added 72 yards on nine tries.
Through the air, McCoy didn’t attain the standards he’d set in the first two games but still hit 6-of-14 passes for 143 yards. Matt Brown caught two of those passes for 46 yards and also threw a couple for 66 more. The Hornets’ lead receiver was Michael Wallace with four catches for 75 yards.
Special teams play also helped the Hornets cause. Though Josh Ault missed on a pair of field-goal attempts, his punts and kickoffs — along with the Hornets’ coverage — kept Malvern bottled up deep in its own end most of the game. The Leopards’ first five possessions started at their own 20. Of their 13 offensive series in the game, the Leopards started no better than their own 20 nine times.
Defensively, the Hornets struggled to stop Malvern tailback Donald Smith in the first half. At intermission, the junior running back, subbing for injured starter Scotty Moore, had 128 yards on 19 carries. In the second half, however, the Hornets put the stops on Smith. He only added 40 yards on 14 tries in the second half.
“We challenged the kids at halftime,” said defensive coordinator Steve Griffith. “We talked to them about the fact that (Malvern) has a couple of tailbacks that have quickness and speed and that we were going to have to come out and hit ‘em tough in the first half. But we didn’t. (Smith) got rolling and as he got rolling, he got a little confidence.
“We just challenged the kids at half to come out and play like we’d talked about playing,” he added. “We reminded the kids that Malvern has a great tradition and they came up here to win. They could care less about all the hoopla that was going on.”
The program celebrated its 50th year at the game. Members of the original Bryant High School football team from 1949 were on hand.
“We had a lot crisper tackling (in the second half),” Griffith noted. “I was proud of Aaron Mears who came out and played a lot more physical in the third quarter. I had to put him at strong end in place of Michael McClellan who suffered a deep thigh bruise. And our linebackers stepped up a did a little bit better in the second half. I was proud of that.”
The Hornets defense helped create the field position advantage the Hornets enjoyed, as well. After giving up one first down on the opening series, they stuffed the Leopards and forced a short punt.
The Bryant offense began its first series at its own 46 and, on the first play, Luke Brown found a hole on the left side, bounced it outside as he broke into the secondary and sprinted all the way for the first score.
And the Hornets threatened to score again after another Malvern punt. They drove from their own 19 to the Malvern 22 where a third-down keeper by McCoy came up 3 yards short of a first down.
Ault attempted a 40-yard field goal and had plenty of leg but it was wide left.
Again, however, the Leopards were forced to punt and before long the Hornets were threatening again. McCoy passed 10 yards to Matt Brown to get the ball into Malvern territory then connected with White on a play that White broke big. But, as the Bryant sophomore, flashed inside the 10, he took a hit from the side and another from the back. The ball was slapped out of his hands and rolled through the end zone.
Malvern was awarded possession at its own 20.
Sparked by Smith’s 36-yard run, the Leopards drove into Bryant territory for the first time. At the 26, Smith just barely converted on a fourth-and-1.
At the 14, Smith got away again and sprinted to the 1 but the play was negated by a holding penalty. On the next play, McClellan knifed through to drag down Huneycutt for a loss of another yard.
But on second-and-20 at the 24, Huneycutt found wingback Michael Berry behind the defense in the end zone for the Leopards’ first (and last) score of the night.
Huneycutt added a run for a two-point conversion on a busted play. He was able to squeeze just inside the pylon at the goal line to give his team an 8-7 lead.
And when the Hornets were forced to punt despite good field position on the subsequent possession, Malvern seemed to have grabbed the momentum.
But Ault boomed a 49-yard for a touchback and, from its own 20 (again), the Leopards managed just 4 yards on three plays as the Bryant defense regained control.
The offense sputtered at first as Malvern’s blitzes made McCoy rush a couple of passes. But a quick third-down pass on a slant over the middle left a Malvern defensive back high and dry. He was forced to interfere or give up a big gain. The penalty gave the Hornets a first down and, a play later, Matt Brown took a pitch from McCoy on reverse action. Brown pulled up and passed deep to White who outran the secondary on a 53-yard touchdown play that put the Hornets ahead to stay.
Moments later, Bryant’s sophomore linebacker Jason Rose forced a fumble and recovered it at the Malvern 42. McCoy passed 36 yards to Matt Brown and, after Luke Brown ran to the 1, McCoy scored his first varsity touchdown with a quarterback sneak to make it 20-8.
The Hornets tried a two-point conversion to make up for the one that Malvern had scored, but the play failed.
The score stayed that way until the half. Malvern’s late attempt to put a drive together was spoiled by Bobby Winn’s interception at the horn.
“I want to praise our coaches,” Patton said. “I thought they did a good job at halftime of getting our kids’ attention. Coach Calley and coach (Joe) Calhoun did a great job of lighting a fire under their rear-ends. I thought offensively we did a good job in the third quarter. Coach Griff, coach (Clay) Beason and coach (Brad) Stroud got the defense together and shut down the running game. Our coaches did a great job of getting our kids ready to play.”
In the third quarter, the Hornets scored on all three of their possessions to blow the game open. On the opening march after an unsuccessful onside kick by Malvern, McCoy and Wallace combined on a 21-yard pass to set up a nifty 8-yard touchdown run by Luke Brown.
Desperate, the Leopards wound up going for a fourth-and-1 at their own 35 on the next series. Led by linebacker Phillip Primm and tackle Shawn Reynolds, the Hornets stuffed Smith for no gain and Bryant took over.
Matt Brown, on another reverse pass, hit Wallace for 13 yards, then Luke Brown turned in a marvelous 21-yard run to the 1 to set up another quarterback sneak for the TD.
Nick Harbert, who was 5 for 5 on extra-point tries made it 34-8.
After three Malvern plays and another punt, the Hornets capped the scoring with a four-play, 64-yard drive that featured a 47-yard gallop by White that set up McCoy’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Wallace.
Reserves played most of the rest of the game for Bryant. Highlights mostly came on defense for Bryant as the offense stayed conservative. The sophomore trio of Rose, Chance King and Matt Clarke combined on a 10-yard sack of Huneycutt on a third-down play early in the fourth quarter. Later, Reynolds and Andy Summers broke through to bury Huneycutt on a fourth-down try that started at the Bryant 39. In addition, Jesse Jones recovered a Malvern fumble on a punt return with 5:25 left to play.
That set up a second field goal try by Ault, this time of 33 yards. It was again long enough but wide left.
With 4:09 left, Malvern ran out the clock, giving the ball to fullback Patrick Hunter seven straight times.
“We’re where we need to be and where we wanted to be,” stated Patton. “We wanted to be 3-0.”