Hornets’ halftime chat inspires second-half blitz
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
LITTLE ROCK — The Bryant Hornets made it look easy in their season-opening win over the Sylvan Hills Bears. Maybe too easy.
In their second game, the Hornets were set to play the Little Rock Catholic Rockets, a team that had barely challenged them in their last two meetings.
Add to that, the fact that their next game was against a team (Jacksonville) that robbed them of a win a season ago, and you might understand why the Hornets might be looking past the Rockets, taking them lightly.
It took a lackluster half in which they were only able to build a 7-0 lead and a halftime scalding from the coaching staff to make them realize that nothing is automatic.
And it was a different team that took the field in the second half. The Hornets scored 17 points in about 1:30 of the third quarter to take control on the way to a 37-6 victory.
“I was ticked,” admitted Bryant head coach Daryl Patton of his halftime demeanor. “We preached to the kids all week that Catholic had a better team (than last year) but I guess they didn’t believe us. I think they thought Catholic would roll over for us and some of the kids admitted to looking ahead to Jacksonville. Here we are ranked in the top 10 — number five or six or whatever — and we’re supposed to take care of these teams. But you’ve got to come ready to play each and every week to stay up there.”
It wasn’t necessarily execution that bothered Patton and his coaching staff.
“I got onto them for having no enthusiasm,” he said. “The kids that are not playing have to be supportive, cheerleaders, get fired up. We need emotion and enthusiasm from them too.
“The seniors did a great job,” Patton noted. “They accepted the blame and the rest of the team followed their lead.”
The game was marred by a series of personal foul penalties, three of which were whistled against the Hornets.
“There was a lot of smack talk and late hits,” Patton allowed. “We would retaliate and get caught. But that’s no excuse. We’ve got to be more disciplined than that.”
The Rockets, otherwise, did a good job in the first half of controling the ball, shortening the game by milking the clock. They also mixed defenses and blitzed from different spots resulting in three first half sacks of quarterback Lance Parker.
The two teams traded punts until the 4:30 mark of the first quarter. After Catholic’s second punt of the game — a holding penalty negated a 23-yard pass play deep into Bryant’s end and foiled the drive — Bryant took over at its own 26. Senior running back Matt White, on his way to 129 yards on 11 carries in the game, broke a 24-yard run to midfield then Parker connected with A.J. Nixon on a 30-yard pass play.
Parker, who was 20 of 30 for 250 yards in the game, completed passes of 6, 9 and 5 yards to Jonathan Jameson, Zack Cardinal and White to set up the score, a 1-yard plunge by middle linebacker-turned-fullback Jason Rose with :43 left in the quarter.
The drive was aided by a Catholic personal foul penalty as well.
Steven Lee kicked the extra point and Bryant led 7-0.
The teams traded punts with the Rockets gradually gaining field position. With 2:57 in the half, the Rockets’ Nick Gowen intercepted a pass and returned to the Rockets’ 38. A personal foul penalty on Bryant was added on and Catholic started at the Bryant 46.
Three plays later, the Rockets punted the Hornets back to the 10. With 1:40 left, Bryant worked its way out to midfield but a holding penalty pushed them back and, on the last play of the half, Catholic’s Noel Hugg sacked Parker for a loss of 17.
Kevin Littleton’s 33-yard return of the second-half kickoff signaled what was ahead for the Rockets. Behind the running of White and short passes by Parker, the Hornets drove to the Catholic 37 where White busted loose on a 37-yard TD sprint.
Lee kicked it to 14-0 with 8:54 left in the quarter.
The coverage was great on the ensuing kickoff by the Hornets. The Rockets were stopped at their own 16. Jake Purvis was cut down for no gain by Eric Scott on first down there and, after a motion penalty moved the line of scrimmage to the 11, Bryant tackle Aaron Johnson chased down Catholic quarterback Mark Ewersmann and sacked him in the end zone for a safety with 7:44 left in the quarter.
On the ensuing free kick, Littleton busted a 30-yard return to near midfield. On the first play from there, Bryant ran a reverse pass. Jameson, who quarterbacked some last year, wound up with the ball with Brandon St.Pierre well behind the Catholic secondary. The resulting touchdown pass covered 52 yards.
When Parker tacked on a pass to Nixon for a two-point conversion, Bryant led 24-0 with 7:25 showing.
Catholic, in turn, finally got something going in the second half. Ewersmann completed a couple of passes including a 20-yarder to Vince D’Andre and fullback Chance Yoder broke a 14-yard run — Catholic’s longest of the night — to push the ball to the Bryant 6.
But Eversmann picked up just 1 yard on second and goal at the 6. The Rockets had to go to the air. A third-down pass was knocked down in the end zone by Rose, who led the team with 12 tackles as well. And, on fourth down, under pressure from Bryant’s Josh White, Ewersmann had to throw the ball away.
Matt White immediately got the Hornets out of the hole with a 27-yard run. They eventually reached the 40 but a personal foul penalty negated a 15-yard completion. Parker and Jameson got that 15 yards back to set up a fourth-and-2 at the Bryant 40.
The Hornets lined up to punt but faked it with Jameson trying to go left to get the first down. But Catholic was ready and stopped Jameson short, taking over at the 39.
Ewersmann passed 18 yards to tight end Cody Yeoman then found D’Andrea on a post pattern for a 21-yard touchdown pass with :09 left in the third quarter. A try for two failed.
It didn’t stay 24-6 long, however. The Hornets answered with an 80-yard drive in nine plays. The big one was a 26-yard pass from to Jameson, who hauled it in between two defenders and despite a pass interference penalty against the Rockets.
Parker threaded the needle, splitting two defenders with a pass to Nixon inside the 5. Nixon, showing admirable concentration, pulled in the toss, turned and danced into the end zone for the score with 9:08 left in the game. Lee’s PAT made it 31-6.
The Hornets added another score with 3:47 left. An 11-yard pass from Parker to Nixon finished off a 54-yard drive in seven plays after the defense had stopped a Catholic drive on a fourth-and-three from the Bryant 48.
The Rockets last possession managed one first down. But Johnson stopped Purvis for a loss on a draw then Andy Summers sacked Ewersmann back for a loss of 10. Catholic, facing a fourth-and-22 at its own 32 had to punt it away with just over two minutes left.