Hornets hold off Hogs
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
TEXARKANA — It’s always good to know that, when you absolutely, positively have to have it — even when the defense is stacked to stop it — you can move the football on the ground.
With the Texarkana Razorbacks hogging the momentum after having turned a 17-0 deficit into a 17-14 chance in the fourth quarter, the Bryant Hornets had the football at their own 17 with 3:04 to play. A three-and-out would surely leave the Hogs with enough time to drive for another score to tie or win even if Bryant punter Austin Humbard boomed another one of his 50-yard-plus kicks to reverse the field.
Texarkana stacked its defense with 10 of its 11 defenders in the box with just that thought in mind. But behind the offensive line of seniors Jordan Jacobs, Scott Pilcher, Drew King, Sam Tucker and Eli Staton with tight end Temple Holdcraft and the determined running of junior Chris Rycraw and, ultimately, quarterback Jimi Easterling, the Hornets ate up the last 3:04 to capture a 17-14 win to improve to 3-0 on the season.
It was the first loss at Razorback Stadium for Arkansas High since 2005.
Rycraw, rushing for over 100 yards for the third time in as many games this season, broke free off of blocks by Pilcher, Jacobs and Holdcraft, for a tackle-breaking 35-yarder on the first play of that final possession, getting the Hornets out of their own end of the field.
Runs by Rycraw and Aspen Trevino reached the Texarkana 42 where, before a third-and-4 play, the Razorbacks used the second of their three timeouts to stop the clock with 1:48 left, anticipating a chance to force a punt. But when play resumed, Easterling went with a hard count and the Hogs, anxious to stop the run, jumped offsides.
With the resulting first down, the Hornets took another stab with Trevino, running behind linebacker Humbard, in at fullback. Easterling then took a knee twice in the victory formation but then Bryant faced a fourth-and-12 and Texarkana took its final timeout with :20 left, expecting to make a stop and earning another clock stoppage with the change of possession and a last shot at scoring.
But on a quarterback sneak, Easterling snuggled up behind King and Pilcher and Jacobs and kept his feet as they blew the Razorback defenders back so far that Easterling actually picked up a first down to clinch the win.
Longtime Texarkana fans thus found out, that these are not your daddy’s Bryant Hornets.
The two old 5A-South Conference rivals were meeting for the first time since 2001. In their 21-season series up to then, Texarkana had won 19 times. (Ironically, the last Bryant win was also 17-14 during the program-turning, undefeated 1999 season.)
So Razorback fans hadn’t seen much of the relatively new and improved Bryant Hornets of recent seasons.
They got a impressive dose over the first three quarters as Bryant built its 17-0 lead. It was a complete performance with the running game continuing to produce as has been the case from the start of the season. The defense continued to be stingy, bottling up the Texarkana run game, which had been its strength in prior games. The kicking game continued to be a huge factor for Bryant as well, most notably with Humbard’s punting but also good coverage on kickoffs. Out of its nine possessions in the game, Texarkana started inside its 5 three times, inside the 20 on other time and at its 20 in another instance.
Part of that, too, was because of poor judgments by Texarkana return men. Twice, the Razorbacks narrowly missed being tackled for safeties with one of the plays coming close to resulting in a Bryant touchdown.
And, for the first time this season, the Hornets passing game became a real factor. Easterling completed 9 of 15 passes including a 49-yard strike to Chris Arnold in the third quarter. It was Easterling’s first varsity touchdown pass and Arnold was one of seven different Hornets that caught those throws.
The Hornets put the first points on the board on their first possession of the game. Texarkana had been forced to punt despite picking up 7 yards on the first play of the game. Stops for negligible gains on second and third down by Shawn Burchfield and Austin Humbard prevented a first down.
Rycraw carried on Bryant’s first two plays and picked up just 3 yards but, on a third-and-7 from the 36, he broke clear on a delayed handoff off the right side and wove his way past the Texarkana defenders 64 yards for the score, his seventh TD on the young season. He wound up with 134 yards on 16 carries.
Aided by a pass interference penalty — incredibly, Bryant’s lone penalty in the game — flagged despite what looked like an uncatchable pass, the Razorbacks drove from their own 18 to the Bryant 30 where defensive end Nathan Lee stopped a third-and-4 play for no gain then, on fourth down, Texarkana quarterback Kierri Harris overthrew a receiver.
With Easterling connecting on his first three passes, mixed in with the running game, the Hornets drove to the Texarkana 39 but a loss on third down forced a punt. Humbard came on and hit one inside the 5 that, inexplicably, Texarkana return man Corey Mitchell caught on a hop with Hornets breathing down his neck. He was hit and the ball flew into the end zone where the Razorbacks’ Cortne Lodge scooped it up and just managed to get out of the zone to prevent a safety.
The Hogs were able to root it out from there, however, and the two teams traded punts the rest of the half.
To start the second half, Rycraw gave Bryant good field position with a good return of the kickoff. But Texarkana came up with its lone sack of the night on a third-down play and forced a Bryant punt. But a low snap and a big rush forced Humbard to take off. Over the last two seasons, that has proved to be a dangerous thing — for Bryant opponents. Humbard again came through with a sprint for 19 yards and a first down, keeping the drive alive.
And it proved to be crucial as the Hornets drove to the Texarkana 17 where Austin Bradley came on a drilled a 34-yard field goal, his first of the season, to make it 10-0.
Texarkana tried to go to the air on its subsequent possession but three incompletions resulted, making Harris 0-for-4 in the game to that point. The Hornets got the ball back again on their own 26. Rycraw broke for 19 yards and, a play later, Easterling hit Logan Garland for 4 yards to set up a third-and-7 at the Texarkana 49.
With the Razorbacks no doubt mindful of the third-down touchdown run by Rycraw early in the game, the Hornets took advantage with a play-action pass. Easterling, after a nice fake to his tailback, rolled left and fired a strike to Chris Arnold who was behind the defense for a touchdown.
It was Easterling’s fifth consecutive completion of the half and, after Bradley added the PAT, the Hornets were up 17-0.
And on the subsequent kickoff, Bradley booted it deep. T.J. Moore, for some reason, picked the ball up as it was about to bounce into the end zone and as he started to head upfield, he slipped down at the 1.
Again, however, the Hogs managed to push out to the 34 before being force to punt. In turn, the Hornets were unable to pick up a first down but Humbard crushed a 58-yard punt that was downed at the Texarkana 4 with 11:43 left in the game.
Only 2 of 7 to that point, Harris started to find his receivers, however. The Hogs drove 96 yards in 12 plays to snap the Hornets’ seven-quarter shutout string. Harris completed 7 of 9 passes on the drive including a 9 yard strike to Brandon Huntley for the points.
A bad snap undermined the extra point so the Hornets held a 17-6 lead with 7:04 to play.
Again, however, Bryant was unable to pick up a first down and punted back to Texarkana. With 5:29 to play, the Hogs found paydirt again going 65 yards on five plays, four of them pass completions including a swing pass to fullback DiMaggio Johnson that he turned into a 38-yard touchdown play.
The Razorbacks added a two-point conversion on a pass from Harris to tailback Tim Lackey and, with 3:08 to play, it was a 3-point game all of a sudden.