The Bryant Hornets hosted the Lake Hamilton Wolves on Senior Night at Hornet Stadium and didn't disappoint the Hornet fans. Bryant took down Lake Hamilton easily 49-14 in 7A/6A South conference play and scored 28 points in the first quarter to jump on the Wolves early.
The Hornets (7-2, 5-1 South) took the kickoff as sophomore KJ Hill returned it 20 yards to the 25-yard line. Senior running back Jalen Bell (concussion) got his first action since Week 4 and took his first carry 8 yards, and senior quarterback Hayden Lessenberry hooked up with junior tight end Dalton Griesemer for 28 yards, which was Griesemer's first catch of the year. Two plays later, Lessenberry found KJ Hill behind the secondary for a 40-yard touchdown pass and 7-0 Hornets' lead with 10:43 left in the first quarter.
The Wolves fumbled on the kickoff return and senior Hornet linebacker Stony Stevens recovered the ball at the Lake Hamilton 8-yard line. Two plays later, Lessenberry ran it in from 5 yards out to make it 14-0 with just over two minutes gone in the ballgame.
Lake Hamilton went three-and-out and it took just two plays again for the the Hornets to score. Lessenberry hit sophomore receiver Brushawn Hunter wide open in the middle of the field for a 71-yard bomb to put Bryant up 21-0 at the 8:06 point of the first quarter.
"They've got people injured, they turned the ball over and we got on them early," Bryant Coach Paul Calley said.
Another three-and-out by the Wolves forced a punt, but Hornet senior punt returner Aaron Bell tried to pick the ball up with defenders around and lost it for a turnover and giving the Wolves excellent field position at the Bryant 32-yard line.
"We should of put it away," Calley said about the fumble. "We should have had them 28-0, but we turned the ball over. That's the kind of stuff if you're playing a good football team, it'll get you beat, but we can get away with it and that scares me."
Calley was referencing the fact that the Hornets haven't played the best of teams the past four weeks. Bryant has beat its last four opponents by an average margin of 47.8-12.0, and the lack of competition isn't preparing the Hornets for the state tournament.
"It's good to win, it's great to get a win," Calley said. "I don't want to sound like I'm not appreciative, but we've gone four weeks without a test. One test in five weeks is not going to help us when we get to the state playoffs."
One play after the turnover, Wolves' running back Hunter Lipton ran 32 yards up the middle for a touchdown to get Lake Hamilton within 21-7 with 6:00 left in the opening quarter.
The Hornets weren't done scoring though as they didn't pass the ball at all using a 9-play, 37-yard drive capped by a Lessenberry 2-yard TD run to make it 28-7 with 2:33 left in the quarter.
Lake Hamilton punted on its next possession and the Hornets took over at their own 35-yard line. Bryant went to the air this time as Lessenberry hit Hill for 20 yards on two passes and after Hunter ran 9 yards to get to the Wolves' 35-yard line, the Hornets gave the Wolves a little trickery as senior receiver Austin Powell took a handoff from Lessenberry, who ran out for a pass, and Powell hit him for 17 yards on the left side for a first down. Lessenberry would find senior tight end Nate Rutherford on the next play to the left side for an 18-yard TD where Rutherford carried tacklers into the end zone from the 5-yard line. The score gave the Hornets a 35-7 lead with 7:46 left in the half.
"He has been really on the last couple of games, but we haven't really been tested," Calley said of Lessenberry.
Lake Hamilton turned it over on downs after a 14-play, 46-yard drive, but it only took two plays for Lessenberry to pick up his sixth TD of the half. After finding senior receiver Devonte Howard for 24 yards, Lessenberry found Hunter again, this time covered fairly well, in the left corner of the end zone for 29-yard TD pass and 42-7 Bryant lead with 1:12 left in the half.
Aaron Bell would pick off Nathan Sawrie on the Wolves first play of their series to give the ball back to Bryant, but Lessenberry would throw an interception for his only flaw of the game. Lessenberry finished 10 for 10 for 235 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. He also ran 6 times for 26 yards and two TDs, and caught one pass for 17 yards giving him 278 total yards for the game, all in the first half. In the past two games, Lessenberry is 24 of 25 for 386 yards and five TDs.
With the clock running the entire second half due to the sportsmanship rule (team leading by 35 points), both teams scored a TD in the second half. Bryant backup quarterback Brandan Warner was 4 of 4 for 52 yards in his first drive capping the drive off with a 19-yard TD pass to Howard to give Bryant a 49-7 lead. Warner would finish 5 of 7 for 62 yards and a TD. Hunter finished with 3 catches for 109 yards and two TDs, Hill had 3 receptions for 60 yards and a TD and Howard had 2 catches for 43 yards and a TD. The Hornets outgained the Wolves 411 to 190 in total yardage.
Bryant will play its regular-season finale on Thursday in El Dorado to face the three-time defending 6A champion Wildcats.
"I expect that to be a test, I truly do," Calley said. "but not having to play four quarters in a month, I still don't know what kind of condition we're in, I don't know how we're going to handle it. We go from the last 10 years having to scrap, fight tooth and nail just to get a victory."