The Bryant Freshman Hornets football team defeated Little Rock Catholic Rockets’ freshman team 36-22 on Thursday at Bryant Stadium, but the game wasn’t without drama. Bryant remained undefeated improving to 7-0 record, but after getting up 22-0, Catholic charged back to tie it 22-22 before the half.
“They had a chance to beat us,” Bryant Coach Kenny Horn said. “Fortunately our guys came through at the end.”
The Rockets (2-5) unsuccessfully attempted an onside kick to start the game and the Hornets got the ball on their own 45 to start out. Bryant needed just five plays for quarterback Brandon Warner to hook up with Brushawn Hunter, who got behind the defense, for a 45-yard touchdown pass. Hunter ran in a two-point conversion to make it an 8-0 Hornets lead with 7:14 left in the first quarter.
The Warner/Hunter show continued on the Hornets’ next possession after a punt when Hunter got behind the Rockets’ defense again. On Bryant’s first play, Hunter scored his second TD of the game when Warner hit him for 40 yards at the 5:51 mark to make it 15-0.
Catholic punted, Bryant botched a field goal and the Rockets punted again, and Hunter returned it to the Rockets’ 9-yard line. Again, Warner and Hunter needed just one play to score when Hunter made a cut after the catch, juking the Catholic defender and scoring his third TD of the game to make it 22-0 with 7:53 to go in the half.
Out of the Hornets’ five-wide receiver set, Hunter finished with six catches for 153 yards and three TDs. Warner completed 16 of 24 passes for 273 yards, four TDs and one interception.
Then things got interesting. Catholic used a 10-play, 48-yard drive aided by two Bryant unsportsmanlike penalties and a pass interference call to get on the board. Athlete D.J. Brown threw a 10-yard TD pass to quarterback Hayden Hum to make it a 22-7 game with 2:50 remaining in the second quarter.
At their own 44-yard line, the Hornets went for it on fourth-and-5 on the next series, but did not get the yardage, turning it over on downs with 1:27 left in the half.
Brown ran it 41 yards on the Rockets’ second play of their series to the 1-yard line and Hum ran a quarterback keeper in two plays later to make it a 22-14 ballgame with 46 seconds left.
Warner completed two quick passes for 34 yards on Bryant’s next series and on the third play, he threw across the hash marks where defensive back Will Chandler intercepted it and ran 60 yards for the TD as time expired in the half. The Rockets completed the two-point conversion to tie it 22-22 at the half.
“As far as that interception goes, if we’re doing it tomorrow, we’re going to do it like that again,” Horn said. “We’re going to try to go as fast up and down the field because we’ve been very successful this year doing that.”
“Our kids had the best week of practice we had all year and I was really proud of them,” Catholic Coach Todd Ezzi said. “We made Bryant try to do some things I guess they weren’t used to doing and we did a pretty good job of it.”
Catholic held the ball for the first seven minutes of the third quarter, but could garner only 37 yards and had to punt it away to Bryant. On the Hornets’ ninth play of the drive, Warner threw his fourth TD of the game, this time to Mar’Kevius Nelson who caught a short pass on the right side of the field and sped down the sideline for a 34-yard score to make it a 29-22 Hornets’ advantage with 7:17 left in the game.
“They just have so much speed and they’re so talented,” Ezzi said. “They made some second-half adjustments that kind of got us in trouble, but I’m proud of the effort of our kids. We’ve really come a long way in the last few weeks.”
Hum threw an interception Drew Tipton on Catholic’s next possession, and Bryant used a nine-play, seven of them rushing plays, 79-yard drive that ate up almost four minutes of clock and resulted in a 7-yard TD run by Nelson with 1:36 left to make it 36-22. Nelson finished with three catches for 49 yards and a TD, and ran five times for 43 yards and a TD.
That was the best game we played all year. Unfortunately, you lose by two touchdowns. It doesn’t seem like that.
“We responded well there at halftime,” Horn said. “I didn’t go in there and yell at the kids. We were calm and talked about adversity. Eventually this was going to happen and it did tonight. We’re glad to come out on top.