Top-ranked Bryant welcomed the Trinity Christian Tigers, who is the 42nd-ranked team overall in Texas, into Hornet Stadium on Friday night.
The Tigers’ offense is led by NFL Hall of Famer Deion “Prime Time” Sanders which initially seemed to be the main highlight of the night, but both talented squads did not fail to produce some big plays down to the final minutes.
Bryant started off strong holding Trinity Christian to a three and out, then began their first drive on the Tigers’ 34. Senior quarterback Austin Ledbetter got the offense rolling, immediately connecting with Hayden Schrader for a first down. A few plays later, Ledbetter snuck it from inside the one to give the Hornets an early 7-0 lead with 8:52 left in the first quarter.
On the following drive, the Tigers answered quickly as quarterback Shadeur Sanders found Jordyn Williams on a deep pass that went the distance. The extra point was unsuccessful and Bryant kept a 7-6 lead.
Williams was quick to make a play on the defensive side as he intercepted Ledbetter’s pass on the ensuing drive taking it to the Bryant 23, but the Hornets were able to keep them from doing any damage stopping the Tigers on 4th & 23.
Bryant got back on track as Ledbetter, with some help from running back Jamarien Bracey, led another scoring drive capping it off finding Schrader for the score giving Bryant a 14-6 lead with 1:22 left in the first quarter.
Bryant’s offense continued to thrive in the second quarter when running back Tanner Anderson took a handoff left, followed by a pancake block from Jason Shifflet, then broke through tackles for a 44-yard touchdown extending the lead to 21-6 w/ 9:58 left in the first half.
The scoring did not stop there. After penalties held the Tigers back, Bryant took advantage as Ledbetter dumped it off to Xavier Foote on a screen play and he did the rest with the help of some great blocking taking it for a 54-yard touchdown earning Bryant a commanding 28-6 lead with 7:15 left in the first half.
The Tigers stopped some of the bleeding with 5:50 left in the half when Sanders connected with Emari Matthews for the score. After a failed 2-point conversion, Bryant still led 28-12.
Trinity Christian’s Cameron Wilson intercepted a Ledbetter pass returning it to the Tiger 43 giving them time to get a drive together with 2:30 left in the half.
Put a drive together they did, and it was capped off by another Sanders to Williams touchdown in the back of the left endzone with :31 left before halftime.
Bryant fumbled on the first play of their next drive, but the Tigers recovered but were not able to capitalize going four and out to close an entertaining first half.
Three and a half minutes into the third quarter, Trinity cut the lead to 28-26 on a 34-yard touchdown pass from Sanders to Reilly Anthony.
Tanner Anderson had something to say about that score on the next kickoff as he caught the ball and darted 80 yards to the Tigers 8. Three plays later, Ledbetter rolled to his right and connected with Cory Nichols for the touchdown extending the Bryant lead to 35-26 with 7:10 left in the third quarter.
“Tanner ran the ball well all night,” Bryant head coach Buck James said. “He’s probably one of the most unheralded players in the state. Our three tailbacks we have are as good as anyone I’ve ever had.”
Bryant stopped the Tigers’ offense on 4th down the following drive and capitalized on having the ball in Trinity Christian territory when Brock Funk connected on a short field goal making it 38-26.
Bryant fumbled with just seconds remaining in the third, and the Tigers took advantage of an opportunity of their own into the fourth quarter driving to the 1-yard line. Emari Matthews carried it in for the score closing the gap to just a five point Bryant lead, 38-35 with 10:50 remaining.
With 9:09 left, the Hornets were hit with a costly facemask penalty and on the next play Matthews found the endzone for his second score in as many drives giving the Tigers their first lead, 40-38.
Bryant responded once again as Ledbetter broke out of a tackle from 8 yards out and fell into the endzone for the score. Despite a failed two-point conversion, the Hornets regained the lead 44-40 with 4:26 left in the contest.
The Tigers had a good drive going, but got into a 4th & 5 situation with 2:36 remaining and were not able to convert.
Bryant got the ball back, and was able to run the clock out winning 44-40, advancing to 3-0 while the Tigers dropped to 3-2.
“I told them at halftime we could have lost the game just as easily as we won it,” James stated. “Sometimes it comes down to a play or two and sometimes you have to be lucky.”
Published by Kyle Sutherland, @sutherland54WPS on Twitter