PREP FOOTBALL: Score doesn’t tell tale for Quad Sanders in win over Rogers

Bryant running back James Martin (23) breaks multiple tackles Friday on his way to Bryant’s first touchdown against Rogers in Bryant. Martin totaled 136 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries in Bryant’s 56-32 victory. (Special to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen B. Thornton)

BRYANT -- The scoreboard at Hornet Stadium read one thing Friday night, but the mood afterward suggested something completely different.

Bryant got huge outings from its usual cast of characters as it opened its title defense with a rocky 56-32 victory over Rogers in the second round of the Class 7A state playoffs.

The Hornets forced four turnovers, generated nearly 600 yards of offense, had two running backs rush for more than 100 yards and got four passing touchdowns from their starting quarterback.

However, Bryant Coach Quad Sanders wasn't at all happy with his team's overall performance.

"It's a win, nonetheless, and that's the good thing about it," he said. "We don't know how to win, though. We just so happened to be better than [Rogers]. But what happens when you're not better than a team?

"When you're better than a team, you should win. But it's also how you win, and we don't know how to do that."

Sanders let his team know exactly how he felt immediately after Bryant (10-1) secured its 17th consecutive playoff win. The Hornets, who trailed for just 58 seconds and scored 28 unanswered points during a 14-minute stretch to take an 18-point lead into halftime, watched Rogers (8-4) continue to push them well into the second half. At one point in the fourth quarter, the Mounties got within 10 points before Bryant was able to pull away with two late scores.

Myron Thrash carried 14 times for 140 yards with 3 touchdowns and James Martin rushed 18 times for 136 yards with 1 touchdown for the Hornets, who also beat Rogers in the second round a year ago. Jordan Walker completed 12 of 17 passes for 244 yards and threw 2 scoring passes to Karter Ratliff and 1 each to Mytorian Singleton and Shawn Rycraw.

The Mounties, who played without quarterback Dane Williams for the entire second half, got 120 yards passing, 29 yards rushing and 56 yards receiving from Jeff Regan. Jacob Jenkins also ran for 96 yards on 15 carries, including a 48-yard touchdown.

Bryant scored on five of its six first-half possessions, but Rogers did jump on them on the game's first drive. The Mounties converted a fake punt during a 10-play, 65-yard march that resulted in a 32-yard field goal by J.T. Miller with 8:51 to go in the first quarter.

But Bryant would take over from there.

After the Hornets recovered an onside kick, Martin scored on a 41-yard run three plays later to start a string of four straight touchdowns.

Malachi McDonald pounced on a Williams' fumble on Rogers' next possession, and Hornets capitalized when Walker zipped a 28-yard touchdown pass to Ratliff in the corner of the end zone with 5:09 remaining in the first quarter.

Bryant would extend its lead to 21-3 on the first play of the second quarter on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Walker to Singleton. That score came 10 plays after Brenden Bennett intercepted a Williams pass and returned it to near midfield.

"Offensively, I thought we did what we wanted to for the most part," Sanders said. "We did a good job of moving the ball and putting points on the board, but without [offense], we would've been nothing. That's the honest truth about it."

Walker threw his third touchdown pass of the half at the 9:58 mark on a 31-yarder to Rycraw, but Rogers got going on its next two tries.

Williams hit Graycen Cash on a slant for a 50-yard score to cut the Hornets' lead to 35-10. Regan then scored on a 14-yard run on fourth down with no time left in the half.

Rogers got even closer in the third quarter. Following a goal-line stand at Bryant's 1, the Mounties drove 99 yards and scored on Jenkins' touchdown run to climb within 35-24.

Ratliff would catch a 64-yard scoring pass with 11:02 left in the fourth quarter to put the Hornets back ahead by 18 until the Mounties put together a 17-play drive that culminated on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Regan to Braxton Lindsey with just over five minutes remaining in the game.

That'd be as close as Rogers would get as Thrash scored on runs of 55 and 4 yards to put the game away. But Sanders pointed out that his Hornets would have to play much better if they intend to claim a sixth state title in a row.

"Defense wins championships, and right now, we're not playing defense," he said. "All of the games, from here on out, are tough. It's not going to get any easier.

"We've got to learn how to not be selfish, learn how to run to the ball on defense the right way and learn how to stay consistent on offense."

  photo  Bryant receiver Mytorian Sinlgeton (3) pulls in a touchdown pass in front of Rogers defender LeShaun Gochett (19) during their game Friday in Bryant. More photos at (Special to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen B. Thornton)