The Bryant Hornets’ sixth win in a row this season, the 27-24 escape over the Alma Airedales on Friday was special in several ways but, in the wake of the victory, it proved to be a costly win.
The Hornets, who started the season with three outstanding running backs, are now down to one. Already without senior Savonte Turner, who suffered a broken led in a narrow victory at Russellville, Bryant has lost junior Cameron Coleman, who was in the midst of a breakout season. He suffered a torn ligament in the lower part of his leg on a running play in the third quarter at Alma and is out for the remainder of the season.
Coleman rushed for a season-high 117 yards and two touchdowns on Friday. He had picked up 362 yards on 56 totes with six touchdowns on the season.
DeAmonte Terry, who leads the Hornets with 560 yards on 77 attempts, remains the lone healthy running back for the varsity.
“It didn’t look like much on the film,” said Bryant head coach Paul Calley. “He rolled it real quick, popped back up and took off. Then he brought himself out of the game. The more he stood there (on the sidelines) the worse it got.
“I hate it for Cameron,” he added. “He was having such a good year. Man, he was running good. His vision had gotten better
Along with Turner and Coleman, the Hornets’ starting middle linebacker Devin Howard has been lost for the season; tight ends Zach Kemp and Jaret Jacobs are battling shoulder injuries. Jacobs is day-to-day and Kemp is out indefinitely.
Bryant is set for a battle at Greenwood this Friday. The 6-0 Bulldogs have outscored their opposition by an average of 45-19. Their victims include 7A-West teams Springdale (63-28), Fort Smith Southside (38-31), Fort Smith Northside (34-24) and defending 7A/6A-Central champion Conway (56-19).
“We’re limping into the Greenwood game,” Calley acknowledged.
The contest features two unbeaten teams and has conference championship ramifications but it has no bearing on the post-season for either team. Bryant is vying for a spot in the 7A playoffs. Greenwood is headed to the 6A playoffs. In the arrangement for mixed conferences put together by the Arkansas Activities Association, only conference games against teams from the same classification count towards reaching the playoffs.
So Bryant’s games against Van Buren on Oct. 23 and Conway on Nov. 6 are crucial especially with the return of Little Rock Catholic’s quarterback Andre Sale from injury. The Rockets, another 7A team in the Central, lost to Bryant, 30-10, but started their third-string quarterback. Catholic still has Conway and Van Buren to play. If the Rockets, with Sale, win those games, Bryant faces a must-win against Van Buren or risks missing the playoffs. The Hornets cannot afford any more injuries.
It’s not the best week to be playing a rolling Greenwood team that, no doubt, will be looking to avenge last year’s 38-21 loss at Bryant.
But adversity is nothing new at Bryant, this year or in the past. Over the years, the Hornets have developed a knack for responding to it well.
Calley praised his team’s effort at Alma.
“We gave it everything we have,” he stated. “We just don’t play very smart sometimes and that’s frustrating. The drive we took the lead on, third down and long, we’re in an impossible situation and (quarterback) Gunnar (Burks) makes a throw and (Aaron) Orender makes a great catch. Gunnar put it the only place he could put it. It was a busted route combination and Orender just turned it back inside and Gunnar found him, like playground football. They made the play.
“Then to stop (Alma) as many times as we did on the ensuing drive when they had a chance to tie or win says a lot about our defense,” he continued. “I remember specifically, (Hayden) Knowles made a big tackle then (Devon) Alpe had the big pass break-up in the end zone. And they missed the field goal. Thank the Lord.”
Calley also praised his offensive line, saying, “They’re not overpowering but they execute really well.”