Saturday, October 21, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Bryant converts third downs, prevails

Leader sports editor

The No. 1 ranked team in the state had a fight on its hands when it went to Panther Stadium on Friday, but the Bryant Hornets did just enough to earn a 17-10 victory and keep its undefeated record intact.

The Hornet offense wasn’t flashy, but it was efficient. The Panthers continually got pressure on sophomore quarterback Jake Meaders in passing situations, but rarely got him down. Meaders repeatedly escaped the pressure and completed passes downfield to convert third and long or gain enough yards for a short fourth-down try.

Cabot, usually the ball control team, had only five possessions the entire game. Bryant had six possessions and held the ball for more than 26 minutes.

The Hornets got their first and used five minutes of the clock to go 83 yards. The touchdown came on third and 9 when Meaders got away from the pass rush and found Brandon Murray in the end zone from 17 yards out.

Cabot started the next drive on its own 22, and immediately went backwards, starting its first offensive series with an illegal procedure penalty.

The Panthers got back in front of the chains on a 12-yard run by T.J. Rogers, and moved downfield with little trouble until it they reached the red zone.

A high option pitch lost 7 yards on second and 5 from the Bryant 9. An option keeper by quarterback Tommy Oaks lost two more yards and set up fourth and 14 from the 18-yard line.

Cabot place kicker Mason Martin made a 35-yard field goal, but Bryant was called for roughing the kicker, and Panther coach Mike Malham sent his offense back on the field for first and goal at the 9.

Two runs got 2 yards and an overthrow in the end zone set up another field-goal opportunity. This time Martin hit from 25 yards out to make it 7-3 with 11:12 left in the half.

The drive was 18 plays and took 8:03 off the clock.

Bryant almost matched it with its next drive. Starting on its own 8 after an illegal block on the kickoff return, the Hornets converted twice on fourth down to keep the drive alive.

A sack, the only one of the half, by Logan Bell almost resulted in a safety, but Meaders slipped out of his grasp and got back to the 2-yard line for a 6-yard loss. Latavion Scott then picked up 2 yards to set up third and 14 from the 4, but Meaders scrambled away from pressure for 13 yards on third down. The Hornets rolled the dice on fourth down and handed to Scott, who barely got the distance needed for a first.

Cabot forced third and 8 on the next series, but again Meaders got away from pressure and found Murray for a 7-yard gain. Once again the Hornets went for it fourth and 1 from its own 27. Cabot hit Scott 2 yards deep in the backfield, but he broke the tackle and picked up 4 yards for the first.

On the next series, Meaders was flushed out of the pocket and towards the Bryant bench, and found Randy Thomas for a big 27-yard gain to the 24.

Cabot’s defense finally got the stop, but kicker Martin Ramirez made a 32-yard field goal attempt with 5:05 left in the half.

The drive was 16 plays long and took 6:02 off the clock.

Cabot got just one first down on the next drive and punted from its own 45.

Bryant then drove from its own 21 to the Cabot 18, but Ramirez missed a 35-yard field goal attempt as time expired in the half.

Cabot’s first drive of the second half ended when Oaks’ passed on an RPO play and it was picked off. On the ensuing drive, Bryant continued to make big plays after Cabot would win first and second down. The Hornets got lucky on third and 11 when Cody Skinner had an interception in his hands. But the ball slipped through his hands, bounced off his helmet straight up into the air high enough for Pittman to get to it and picked up 14 yards.

A sack by Dylan Dowda on the next series forced a third and 10, but Bryant again got an 18-yard pass to Murray for the conversion. Later in the drive, on fourth and 4, Meaders hit Ja’Kalon Pittman for a 17-yard gain. Scott got the next 20 on the ground on the next play for a 17-3 Hornet lead.

Cabot answered right back with its best drive of the game. The big play came on second and 11 when fullback Adam Flores sprang loose for a 47-yard gain. Noah Sorrell ran for 10 yards on the next play and later scored from 1 yard out. The extra point set the eventual final margin with 9:49 left in the game.

Bryant finished with 372 total yards to just 185 for Cabot. Meaders completed 19 of 29 pass attempts, including 9 for 9 in the second half, for 230 yards. Scott finished with 190 total yards from scrimmage. He carried 23 times for 127 yards, and caught four passes for 63 yards.

Cabot (4-4, 2-4) travels to Fort Smith Northside next week. Bryant hosts undefeated North Little Rock in a battle of No. 1 vs. No. 2.