Photos by Rick Nation
By Rob Patrick
The Bryant Blue Hornets eighth grade football team of Bethel Middle School appeared to be determined not to let running back Ahmad Adams beat them. And the Bryant White Hornets eighth grade football team of Bryant Middle School appeared to be determined not to let quarterback Jake Meaders beat them.
And neither White’s powerful Adams nor Blue’s heady Meaders had their usual success when the two teams met each other in the 10th annual Hornet Bowl at Bryant Stadium Thursday night.
But Bethel suffered two early turnovers — one of which cost them a possession and the other points — Adams turned into a lead blocker for White Hornets’ quarterback Derrick Rose who picked up 78 yards and a clinching fourth-quarter touchdown as Bryant Middle School captured the Hornet Bowl trophy for the first time since 2012 with a 22-6 victory.
The White Hornets improved to 5-0 on the season while the Blue Hornets fell to 3-2. White hosts Russellville on Thursday, Oct. 15. Blue plays next against Mabelvale on Tuesday, Oct. 13.
Both teams actually suffered two fumbles in the first quarter of Thursday’s battle. Bryant White retained possession both times while Bryant Blue lost both.
The opening series had Blue on offense but the first play was stuffed by White’s Austin Bailey and Taylor Martin. The second play was stopped for no gain by Brantley Thomas. An incomplete pass followed and Blue had to punt.
Adams mishandled the punt but teammate Arlon Jackson scrambled to cover it at the White 26.
Adams uncorked an 18-yard run on first down but the Blue defense, led by Ryan Riedmueller and Christian Cain, forced a punt in return. But Cain was unable to field it cleanly and White recovered at the Blue 35.
But, even with the short field, Bryant White was unable to get a first down. A holding penalty helped but, on a fourth-down play, David Shifflet, Tanner Wilson and Reidmueller converged to stop Rose for no gain.
The Blue Hornets took over on downs but, on the first play, the ball was knocked away from Meaders at the end of a 6-yard run and Bailey recovered for the White Hornets at the Blue 37.
On White’s first snap from there, Shifflet put the pressure on Rose and forced a fumble but Rose got back on it. Aided by a pass interference call that allowed them to convert a fourth-and-12, the White Hornets drove for a score. Adams covered the final 14 yards to make it 6-0.
Adams finished with 35 yards on seven carries in the first half but 32 of that came on two carries, his first tote and his TD run.
Shades of things to come, Cain returned the ensuing kickoff all the way back to the White 48. Dalen McDonald helped Blue pick up its initial first down of the game with a 9-yard run, helping the team reach the White 31. But, on fourth-and-3, a pass fell incomplete and the White Hornets took over on downs with 2:50 left in the half.
Though Adams was stopped for losses on consecutive carries, in between, Rose threw deep to Catrell Wallace down the left side. Wallace hauled it in for a 34-yard gain. On the next play, Adams was stopped for a loss of 4 by Ethan Loomis and Will Hope. Then, Riedmueller hauled down Rose for a loss of 7.
But, on third-and-21, Rose scampered for 19 yards and, on fourth-and-2, he broke a 16-yarder to the 9. With time running out in the half, the White Hornets went to the air but two passes fell incomplete.
Rose scrambled for 7 yards to the 2 and, after a timeout, tossed a fourth-down pass into the right corner trying to get it to Wallace again. The ball fell incomplete but pass interference was called and Bryant White got another chance. This time, Rose threw to Wallace on a slant for the touchdown with :06.7 showing on the clock.
Despite a holding penalty on the first two-point conversion, White tacked it on anyway with a pass from Rose to Drake Findley.
The horn sounded ending the first half as Cain started upfield with the kickoff return. He started up the left side of the field, reversed field, picked up blockers and sprinted down the right sideline for a touchdown, a 72-yard return that put Bryant Blue on the board.
Though a try for two failed, the Blue Hornets had made it a one-score game, 14-6.
And Blue tried an onside kick to start the second half only to have White’s Harrison Woodham fall on the ball. It came loose but the officials called him down before the fumble.
White drove to the Blue 34 where a holding penalty sidetracked the drive. A bad snap sabotaged a fourth-down play and Blue took over on downs at its own 48.
McDonald lashed for runs of 10 and 8 yards. Meaders, though he had a pass dropped, picked up yardage on three carries. But a holding penalty knocked Blue back too after they’d reached the White 22. They turned the ball over on downs when a fourth-and-13 pass fell incomplete.
With the fourth quarter unfolding, Blue forced a punt. But Findley unleashed a 51-yard kick pushing Blue back to its own 17. Meaders completed a 7-yard pass to Jaeger Burks but the Blue Hornets faced a fourth-and-4 at their own 23. Bethel coach Shane Clancy decided to go for broke and, despite the fact that Meaders’ pass appeared to be on the money, Jenkins knocked it away and White took over on downs.
With the short field, the White Hornets scored in two plays. Adams dashed for 18 yards then Rose scored from the 5 with 3:56 left. Jace Freeman ran in the two-point conversion and it was 22-6.
Meaders then led the Blue Hornets down the field completing four consecutive passes. Burks caught a 13-yarder and another for 9. Loomis’ reception was for only 1 yard but it converted a third down at the White 17.
Meaders’ next pass was caught by Hayden Linn as he laid on the ground after slipping. Suddenly, the Blue Hornets were at the White 3. But their frustration continued as four consecutive passes into the end zone fell incomplete. Jenkins had another knockdown.
White took over on downs with 1:54 left and ran out the clock.
Next time, the players hit the gridiron together, they’ll be members of the same team. Freshman coach Kenny Horn addressed both teams at the middle of the field after the game after Bryant Middle School coach Brad Smotherman and his players were awarded the trophy.