Thursday night proved to be a great one for the Bryant Junior High Hornets. Needing a big win over Little Rock Central to stay in contention for the conference title, the Hornets took care of business, and in dominating fashion. After a slow start, the Hornets finished with 24 unanswered points to win 24-6.
The Tigers started the game on offense, but only thanks to a lucky bounce. The Hornets laced a line-drive kickoff into the facemask of a Tigers front line player, sending the ball back to the Hornets. But, after not being able to corral the ball, Central took over at the Bryant 49-yard line to start its opening drive.
The Tigers were held to third down and long two times on their opening drive, but continued to battle for first downs against the Hornet defense. After seven rushes and a pass, Central had the gameâ€™s first lead with 4:48 still left in the first quarter. A failed two-point conversion stalled the lead at 6-0 early.
The Hornets looked to have tied the game on their opening drive, but that was not the case. After big runs from running back Savonte Turner and quarterback Gunnar Burks, the Hornets were within 7 yards of the end zone with a first-and-goal. Turner took the ball once again and looked to have crossed the goal line before losing the ball. The referee thought otherwise, calling the play a fumble, resulting in a touchback for the Tigers.
â€śWe fumbled,â€ť Head Coach Kenny Horn said. â€śObviously the ball was on the ground and they called it a fumble.â€ť Horn did not go into detail about the play but he was very heated on the sideline after the call.
The Bryant defense quickly got the ball back after forcing a three-and-out on the Tigers. Taking over on their own 39-yard line, the Hornets drove down the field on six straight runs for the score. Turner took the ball in from 7 yards out to tie the game. Turner collected 36 yards on 4 rushes before crossing the goal line. A converted two-point try gave Bryant the lead at 8-6 with 6:41 left in the first half.
From there, the Hornet defense continued to dominate and didnâ€™t allow another score in the game, forcing a punt, a turnover on downs, a fumble and an interception on the rest of the Tigersâ€™ drives. As for the offense, the Hornets rolled, continuing to run the ball effectively. On their third drive of the game, the Hornets used two passes from Burks to Demaja Price to go 25 yards for the score. Another converted two-point conversion moved the lead to 16-6 at the half.
After fumbling to start the second half, the Hornets returned the favor and took the ball back via the fumble and went 58 yards on 7 plays for the score. Bryant used all running plays for its third score of the game to take a commanding 24-6 lead after another good two-point try.
The Hornets ended the game on a sour note, fumbling on back-to-back drives. Though Bryant won by 18, the score could have been even worse.
â€śI donâ€™t care if we win 100 to 99, just as long as we have 100,â€ť Horn said with a laugh.
Turner finished with 142 yards on 15 carries and a TD. Burks added 78 yards on 10 carries. Burks also completed 3 of 4 passes for 29 yards and a TD in the win.
â€śWe didnâ€™t have to pass much like we should have,â€ť Horn said. â€śWe were breaking off pretty good runs so we kept it on the ground. We got some guys that can run it and we are proud of them.â€ť
Bryantâ€™s defense gave up just 74 yards on 40 plays. The Hornetsâ€™ offense totaled 251 on 33 plays from scrimmage.
Bryant moves to 6-1-1 overall and 6-1 in conference play. The Hornets will play Conway Blue next week before taking on Benton in the last game of the year on Oct. 30 at C.W. Lewis Stadium in Benton. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. next Thursday.