Junior Hornets pass first road test
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
CONWAY — Head coach Jason Hay and his staff had reason to be wary of the Bryant Junior Hornets’ trip to Conway to play the White Wampus Cats on Thursday, Sept. 20. After all, their team was on the road for the first time this season and coming off an emotional win over the defending Central Arkansas Conference champion Lake Hamilton Junior Wolves, taking on a team that was riding high after upsetting perennial contender North Little Rock.
Though the offense struggled a little bit initially, defense and special teams play sparked the Hornets, giving the offense short fields to work with and they rolled to a 28-6 win to go 2-0 in the South Division of the league.
Dylan Pritchett continued to have a nose for the goal line. He came into the game leading the team with four touchdowns and he doubled that on Thursday, scoring once in each quarter and making him a candidate to approach the single-season record of 20 set by Aspen Trevino in 2005.
Bryant started each of its first four possessions in Conway territory thanks to the smothering defense which allowed just one first down before late in the half.
Linebacker Jordan Moore, who was in on 10 tackles including three for losses, came up with his first stop for a loss on a third-down play on Conway’s first possession, forcing the Cats to punt from their own 12. Will Suddeth then blocked the kick and the Hornets gained possession at the 16.
After being held to just 1 yard on three plays in its first possession, the Bryant offense got a big push from the offensive line and Pritchett banged for 7 yards. But a fumble was recovered by Conway’s Desmond Cox at the 10.
The Cats managed a first down but, facing a third-and-6 from the 29, quarterback Matt Lefler was dropped by Jacob Brady and they were forced to punt.
This time, the Hornets’ special teams produced a big return. Tanner Tolbert caught the low line-drive kick at the Conway 48 on the run and zipped through the Conway coverage 40 yards to the 8.
A play later, Pritchett, who wound up with 98 yards on 17 carries in the game, banged in from the 1 to start the scoring.
“It was a good win for us,” commented Hay. “We played pretty good on both sides of the ball. We kind of struggled a bit on offense with a turnover but — the defense was solid the whole game — we looked good after that, I thought. Coach (Kenny) Horn and Coach (Bart) Reynolds did a good job with the defense and Coach (Dale) Jones had a good plan going in and did a good job calling plays. We had a big block on special teams. That helped.”
Of the early struggles, the coach said, “We just weren’t blocking it right. They came out in something slightly different than we expected and we just weren’t getting a good push off the ball. We ran the same plays when we were knocking them out later in the game. Conway’s a good team. They were coached up. We just started executing a little bit better.”
Another Conway punt resulted in the Hornets getting the ball back at the Cats’ 47. This time, they went to the air and quarterback Blake Davidson found Tolbert deep for 36 yards to the 11.
Pritchett carried three straight times from there, scoring from just outside the 1. Bo Stitch added the conversion at it was 14-0 with 4:29 left in the half.
Conway responded with a good return on the kickoff. James Glasper made what might’ve been a touchdown-saving tackle at midfield.
Buoyed by a 27-yard completion from Lefler to Jordan Cagle which converted a third-down, the Cats drove to the Bryant 17. But Hunter Mayall knifed through to drop Cox for a loss on a second-and-7 and the Hornets snuffed out a third-down run by fullback Darion Hill who fumbled. Teammate Terrance Cartwright picked up the loose ball only to have the defense swarm to him. He tried to lateral and ended up throwing an illegal forward pass. Cox caught the toss but was also immediately smacked down in an impressive display of pursuit defense by the Hornets.
On fourth down, however, Bryant was flagged for a pass interference inside the 5. The 15-yard penalty gave Conway new life at the 11. Again, however, the defense rose up and stopped the threat. Glasper knocked down a fade pass into the end zone and, a play later, Mayall sniffed out a swing pass to running back Camaran Azumara and dropped him for a 5-yard loss, forcing the Cats to turn the ball over on downs with :05 left in the half.
Conway got the ball back to start the third quarter but, on a third-and-1, Moore cut down Azumara for a loss and, after a short punt, the Hornets had the ball back at their own 42.
Davidson completed passes of 14 and 20 yards to Mayall to get to the 24. Two plays later, a bubble screen to Tolbert broke for a good gain but the officials ruled that Tolbert was beyond the line of scrimmage so the blockers were downfield ahead of him illegally. The penalty set up a third-and-16 at the Conway 30.
But Davidson connected with Tolbert again on a post route, picking up 15 yards and, on fourth and 1, Conway jumped offsides to give the Hornets a first down at the 10. A play later, Pritchett scored for the third time from the 3. Stitch booted it to 21-0 with 2:01 left in the third quarter.
An interception by Tolbert set up the final Bryant TD. The Hornets drove 62 yards in six plays, all on runs by Pritchett including a 41-yard bolt to start the possession off and another 3-yard plunge to end it. Stitch’s PAT made it 28-0 with 3:50 left.
The Hornets’ defensive reserves came on and made some plays. Marcus Harris made a nice play to stop a play for no gain and, after a 16-yard pass play to the Bryant 44, Holden Chavis made a big hit on running back Glenn Norris for a loss.
Conway faced a fourth-and-8 at the Bryant 42 moments later but back-up quarterback Aaron Boucher completed a 31-yard pass to Chris Canada with :08 left. On the last play of the game, Boucher kept around right end for an 11-yard touchdown run to set the final score. A high snap foiled the extra-point attempt.
The Junior Hornets travel to North Little Rock on Thursday, Sept. 27.