Hornets ‘punt’ Wildcats
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
EL DORADO — It’s not often that a punt with no return is a turning point in a football game. But it wasn’t any normal punt, it was a pair of them — that actually went the distance of three — that gave the Bryant Hornets the impetus to carve out a 20-7 win over the El Dorado Wildcats at Memorial Stadium on Friday, Sept. 8.
Though the Hornets’ defense had pretty much controlled the El Dorado offense, the Wildcats managed to tie the game 7-7 late in the first half, thanks to a long pass reception that was almost an interception and a fourth-down 1-yard run that foiled Bryant’s bid at a goal-line stand.
El Dorado thus had the momentum at the half. And when the third quarter began, the Wildcats’ defense, with the help of a dropped third-down pass, forced a three-and-out. The Hornets were forced to punt from their own 34 and there was reason to believe that the Wildcats would get the ball with pretty good field position and a chance to take a lead.
But senior punter Cody Williams uncorked a booming 63-yard punt that rolled out of bounds at the El Dorado 3. It created poor field position that the Wildcats would not overcome the rest of the game.
Bryant didn’t immediately take advantage, however. The offense, held without a first down in the second quarter, couldn’t muster one despite getting the ball back after an El Dorado punt just 33 yards from paydirt.
Williams came through again. This time, punting from the El Dorado 31, Williams unleashed a towering kick that teammate Jordan Knight was able to get under and catch at the 2.
The Wildcats managed one first down as junior Jeremy Gill, a starter at quarterback at the end of the 2005 season, returned to calling the signals after playing at running back and flanker in the first half. But, on a third-and-7 from the 18, Gill was dropped at the line of scrimmage by Williams, Chris Taylor and Logan Cruse and the Wildcats had to punt again.
This time, taking over at midfield, the Bryant offense took advantage, sparked by a little trickery. Junior quarterback Logan Parker, who started the second half after senior Matt Schrader played the first half, handed off to running back Aspen Trevino who pitched to Schrader, who had lined up as a slot receiver. Schrader rolled out to the right and who did he find open but Parker who hauled in his pass and dashed to the El Dorado 30.
From there, Trevino, who had a game high 68 yards on 17 carries all in the second half, carried five consecutive times to get to the 2. A penalty put the outcome of the drive in question but, on a third-and-goal at the 8, Schrader passed to Taylor Masters for the touchdown that put the Hornets ahead to stay.
El Dorado didn’t manage another first down until the closing moments of the game after Trevino’s 3-yard touchdown run with 0:34 left in the game put it out of reach.
The Wildcats wound up with just 147 yards of offense in the game including just 29 yards net rushing on 30 attempts despite a major size advantage at the line of scrimmage. The Hornets forced 12 lost-yardage plays with Williams, the team’s middle linebacker, getting in on a team-high 13 tackles including eight solo and Cruse, the junior safety, in on 11 stops and coming up with his second interception of the season.
“We just used pursuit angles and made sure we stayed in front of them, broke down, made good tackles and gang-tackled,” Williams explained.
“Tremendous heart and not giving up,” Taylor added regarding the defensive effort. “We just wanted to play hard, tough defense. We played ‘Swarm’ all night, we didn’t stunt. The linebackers stayed in their spots, the linemen staying in their spots. We trust each other.”
Williams also wound up averaging 44 yards on six punts including those two that he dropped inside the 5.
“Cody Williams came through in a big way tonight, didn’t he?” reflected Hornets head coach Paul Calley. “He flipped the field. Our defense kept us in real good field position the whole first half and we couldn’t capitalize except for that one time. That’s something we can’t continue doing offensively. But our defense was all over the field. The thing about it is, they do the same thing to us in practice. We can’t make any yards.”
The coach continues to be concerned about his offense, however. “How long can you win with field position and defense?” he pondered as his team begins the meat of their schedule. After defeating a pair of 6A teams in Benton and El Dorado, the rest of the Hornets’ opponents are 7A teams including their final non-conference foe, Fort Smith Southside, which comes to Bryant this week.
“Usually it’s against us,” Calley said of the field position. “When you get to conference, there’s no way it keeps going our way like it has been. We’ve got to be able to overcome (with our offense). We got a lift from Trevino. He makes a difference. But the way they played us on defense, we should’ve been able to run it all night long. We’ve got to stop making it tough on ourselves.”
It took 11 plays for the Hornets to cover the 56 yards for the first score of the game. It came on their second possession and featured some bullish running from senior Dustin Seljan. Schrader completed 4 of 5 passes along the way. Twice, the Hornets converted third downs. On a third-and-1 from the El Dorado 47, Seljan burst for 5. Moments later, on a fourth-and-1 at the 33, he broke outside off a block by left tackle Bracy Atkinson and bashed 12 yards. Then, on a third-and-5 at the 16, Schrader looked off the defense as one receiver ran a deep route and came back to Raylen Cantrell who had settled into the zone, caught the pass and got to the 4.
From there, Schrader kept for the touchdown with 2:36 left in the first quarter. Sophomore Austin Bradley kicked the extra point.
El Dorado didn’t manage a first down until early in the second quarter when, on a third-down play, a pass interference penalty did the trick. They reached the Bryant 36 but with Taylor containing to the outside, Gill was forced to cut up on a sweep and there was linebacker Jared Szabad to drop him for a 6-yard loss. A play later, El Dorado was punting.
Booted back to their own 11, the Hornets failed to get a first down and Williams blasted a 49-yard punt to turn the field again.
This time, however, El Dorado produced a couple of big plays in the passing game. Sophomore Paul Anzalone converted a third-and-11 with a 15-yard connection with Gill, then a third-and-2 from the Bryant 43 with a 5-yard scramble. On the next play, the Wildcats went deep. Anzalone was pressured but the got the pass away and it looked like Bryant cornerback Trent Daniel, who had excellent coverage, would pick the ball off inside the 10. But it deflected off his hands and El Dorado’s Jarosky Lark made a diving catch at the 2.
The Hornets’ defense stopped the first three plays short of the goal line but, after a timeout with :27 left, El Dorado’s Cartelo Wade just got in off left tackle. After Chance Murphy’s extra point, the game was tied.
After taking the lead in the third quarter, the Hornets had a chance to add to it midway through the fourth, driving from midfield to the 1. The key play was a nice 20-yard pass and run from Schrader, who withstood a blitz to get the pass away, to Jake Jackson that included a key downfield block by Masters.
On a third-and-goal at the 6, Schrader tried to get in with a dive at the end of his quarterback draw but was stopped at the 1 and shaken up.
In hopes of going up by two scores, Calley chose to send in the field goal unit. But Schrader, normally the holder, couldn’t go back in and Bradley’s attempt was wide left.
Moments later, however, Taylor blew through a blocker to pressure Anzalone and Cruse came up with his interception at the El Dorado 42, setting up the clinching touchdown drive that was keyed by a 24-yard quarterback sneak by Parker. He also sneaked for 2 yards to convert a fourth-and-1 at the 5. On the next play, Trevino, with his fifth carry of the seven-play march, took it in.