Tuesday night was a historic night on the football field for the Bryant Freshmen Hornets. For the first time in school history, the Hornets finished a season undefeated and untied with a resounding 35-0 win over Saline County rival Benton.
The Hornets finish the season with a perfect 10-0 record overall and 7-0 in the rugged Central Arkansas Junior High Conference. Benton closes the season with a 3-7 record overall, 2-5 in the conference.
“Congratulations to Bryant and Coach Kenny Horn on a great season,” Benton Coach Wayne Parker said following the game. “They have some very gifted athletes and talent on that team.
“But I’m proud of my team. We were out-manned tonight, but our kids played hard and never quit.”
Benton opened the game with a three-and-out possession. Following a Chase Shamlin punt, the Hornets moved the ball to the Panther 21-yard line. On second down, Stone Paul intercepted a Bryant pass and returned it 38 yards.
Benton was unable to move the ball with the Hornet defense again forcing a three-and-out. The Hornets took possession on their own 21-yard line. On third down, Sam Baker intercepted a Bryant pass giving the Panthers the ball on the Hornet 49-yard line.
The Panthers again found the going difficult offensively. On fourth down, Shamlin drilled a 41-yard punt, pinning the Hornets back on their own 4-yard line. Following a 2-yard penalty and a 1-yard loss, the Hornets faced a third-and-13 from their own 1-yard line. Brushawn Hunter ran for 13 yards, giving the Hornets a first down. On the ensuing play, Mar’Kevius Nelson raced 86 yards for a touchdown. Alex Denker converted his first of five PAT’s on the night, giving the Hornets a 7-0 lead.
Benton’s next possession again resulted in a three-and-out. Following a Panther punt, Bryant quarterback Brandan Warner found K.J. Hill who took the ball 51 yards to paydirt.
The Panthers again were unable to pick up a first down on their last possession of the first half. Shamlin’s punt covered 52 yards, rolling to a stop at the Bryant 19-yard line. With just 1:02 left on the first-half clock, the Hornet offense again went to work. Warner passed 36 yards to receiver Steven Murdock and Hunter carried twice for 41 yards. An offside on Benton moved the ball to the Panther two yard-line. Following a running play for no gain, Warner found K.J. Hill alone in the end zone on the final play of the first half, giving the Hornets a 21-0 lead.
The teams traded possessions to open the second half. On Bryant’s second possession, Tim Dezort forced a Nelson fumble that was recovered by Benton’s Kardavian Conley, giving the Panthers their best field possession of the night at the Hornet 34-yard line.
Chase Shamlin rambled 13 yards on first down. But the Hornet defense stiffened. On fourth-and-11, Nick Quinn completed a pass to Colby Johnson for eight yards, short of the the first down.
The Hornets then drove 86 yards in eight plays with Hunter hauling in a 21-yard pass from Warner for the touchdown.
On the first play of Benton’s next possession, Drew Tipton of the Hornets recovered a Stone Paul fumble and returned it 19 yards to the Panther 7-yard line before being hauled down by Baker. On third-and-goal, Mitchell Reeves caught a 7-yard touchdown pass to complete the scoring.
The Hornets dominated the stat sheet Tuesday night. Mar’Kevius Nelson had 164 yards rushing on 11 carries. Hunter added 54 yards on just three carries. Warner was 10 of 18 passing for 152 yards. His favorite target was K.J. Hill who caught five passes for 61 yards. Hunter had three catches for 48 yards and Murdock hauled in one pass for 36 yards.
For the Panthers, Shamlin led the ground attack with 30 yards on 11 carries. Nick Quinn was 2 of 8 passing for 17 yards with both receptions going to Colby Johnson.
“I’m proud of my team,” Wayne Parker said after the game. “This is a great group of young men and the very difficult conference schedule we played this year will only help develop and better prepare these guys to contribute significantly at the high school level next year.”