By Rob Patrick
The only thing that could’ve made the evening even more of a success for the Bryant Blue Hornets, the Bethel Middle School eighth grade team, would’ve been for Daniel Castleberry to get into the end zone.
Castleberry, along with Amador Gaspar, is a defensive lineman who turns fullback in the Hornets’ “two-ton” short-yardage formation. Usually, they’re helping to clear the way for running back Bryce Denker. But, as Bryant Blue finished the 2009 season against their rivals from Benton on Tuesday night, Castleberry got a chance to carry the football. It came after the Hornets had extended their second-half lead to 22-0. On the two-point conversion attempt, Castlebery took the handoff from quarterback Dakota Besancon.
He was stopped just short of the end zone.[more]
Everything else went well for the Hornets as they closed the season with a splendid performance. On offense, they rolled up 220 yards of offense with Denker doing yeoman’s duty at running back with 142 yards on 26 carries working behind the offensive line of center Seth Hoffmans, guards Tanner Rich and Tanner Gullett and tackles Colton Caviness and Ben Yeldell.
The defense, meanwhile, completely stymied the Panthers who managed a net of just 61 yards of offense, all on the ground. And 53 of that came on one play, a run by Ryan Rodriguez late in the game after the final score had already been posted.
Denker, running out of the tailback spot in the I-formation, occasionally from fullback and a few times as the “wildcat” back taking a direct snap, carried the ball on all six of the plays in Bryant’s opening drive after Conner Wooten recovered an onside kick to start the game.
Denker carried in from the 7 to complete the 42-yard drive. He also ran in the two-point conversion.
Benton went three-and-out on its first possession. The Panthers were stopped on a third-and-2 at their own 45 when Rodriguez was piled under by Jacob Irby, Rich and Gaspar for a loss of 2.
The Panthers punted Bryant Blue back to its 16 and, on first down there, dropped Denker for a loss on a play by Isaiah Henderson and Joe Griffith.
A pass on second down by Besancon fell incompete but, on third down, his 11-yard strike to Chase Christie set the Hornets on their way to a 84-yard drive in 18 plays. Denker carried on 11 of those snaps. His 16-yard jaunt converted a third-and-2 from the Benton 28.
After a penalty set them back to the 21, the Hornets eventually faced a third-and-15. But Besancon found Christie who turned the short pass into a 21-yard touchdown.
Behind Castleberry and Gaspar, Denker added the two-point run.
With 4:22 left in the first half, the Hornets had a 16-0 lead and the Panthers had run just three plays and a punt on offense.
On runs by Rodriguez and Shaun Carey, the Panthers picked up their initial first down but, moments later, they were punting it back to the Hornets and the half ended two plays later.
Bryant got the ball to start the second half and added a little icing to their lead, driving 61 yards in 13 plays.
Along the way, they kept the drive alive when Benton jumped into the neutral zone to convert a fourth-down situation. Later, Denker broke a 15-yard burst on a third-and-3 from the Benton 40.
Two plays later, however, they faced a third-and-10 from the 25. Christie got the ball from Besancon on a reverse and pulled up to throw, hitting Davis Nossaman for a 17-yard completion to the 8.
On second-and-goal at the 5, Trevor Ezell took a handoff on a reverse going toward the right pylon only to have a holding penalty at the 1 negate the TD. From the 11, however, the Hornets went to the same play going the other way and Ezell sprinted around left end and into the end zone for the score.
The drive took up all but 1:28 of the third quarter.
The teams traded punts then Benton made its best bid to score thanks to the long run by Rodriguez which reached the Bryant 16 before Austin Middleton rolled him out of bounds.
Griffith crashed to the 10 but, on the next play, a bad snap sabotaged the Panthers’ play.
A penalty followed pushing them back to the 15. Quarterback Terek Beaugard’s pass was broken up by Ezell then, on fourth down, the Panthers’ QB was flushed and dropped for a loss by Scott Mead.
Bryant took over on downs and ran out the final 2:10.
BRYANT BLUE 22, BENTON 0
Score by quarters
Benton 0 0 0 0 — 0
BRYANT BLUE 8 8 6 0 — 22
BRYANT BLUE — Denker 7 run (Denker run), 4:53
BRYANT BLUE — Christy 21 pass from Besancon (Denker run), 4:22
BRYANT BLUE — Ezell 11 run (run failed), 1:28
Benton Bryant Blue
First downs 2 13
Rushes-yards 15-61 34-167
Passing 0-2-0 4-9-0
Passing yards 0 53
Punts-avg. 3-27.0 1-19.0
Fumbles-lost 4-1 1-0
Penalties-yards 4-20 4-30
Rushing: BRYANT BLUE, Denker 26-142, Ezell 3-20, Mears 1-12, Miller 1-2, Besancon 3-(-9); BENTON, Rodriguez 5-56, Carey 2-10, Griffith 1-6, Beaugard 7-(-11).
Passing (C-A-I-Y): BRYANT BLUE, Besancon 3-8-0-36, Christie 1-1-0-17; BENTON, Beaugard 0-2-0-0.
Receiving: BRYANT BLUE, Christie 2-32, Nossaman 2-21.