Revenge not on the mind for Bryant
November 8, 2011
LITTLE ROCK Not much went right for Bryant on their Week 2 trip to Fort Smith Northside earlier this season.
Hornets' coach Paul Calley said that bus trouble and personal problems marred the jaunt up Interstate 40, and the ride ended with a 45-40 loss to the Grizzlies on Sept 9.
It's not often that a team gets another shot at a non-conference opponent in the same season. But Bryant is now one of the lucky few that get one. The two teams will meet again, this team at Bryant Stadium, in a 7:30 p.m. game in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs.
Not that the thought of revenge has entered Calley's mind.
"Not really," Calley said. "We just want to play better than we did in the first game. We didn't play very well in the last game. We just want to compete a little bit better than we did."
Since that game, Bryant has done that.
One of the 7A/6A Central Conference tri-champions and the no. 3-seed out of the conference, the Hornets (8-2, 6-1) have won seven of their last eight games, the lone loss a 35-0 shutout to fellow conference tri-champ North Little Rock on the road. Fort Smith Northside (4-6, 2-5) has gone the opposite direction, losing five of their last six games and backing into the playoffs at the no. 6-seed out of the 7A-West Conference.
"Of course, we played them earlier in the year before conference (season), but they've gotten a lot better at what they do," Fort Smith Northside coach Darryl Henry said of Bryant. "They're a lot more polished at what they do. There running backs I think have gotten a better feel, not that they weren't good the first time, because they were, but when you play 10 ball games with same offensive line, the same quarterback. That's what they are, a really good football team, polished."
"I don't think the fact that we beat them earlier in the year will effect them at all," Henry said.
After the loss, the Hornets scored 30 or more points in six of their seven wins. The Grizzles have had a tough time stopping anyone, allowing at least 48 points in each of their last five losses and over 50 in four of them. The Grizzlies have given up 40 a game and are averaging 31.5 points per game offensively.
Though if you ask Calley, going against teams in the 7A-West has a lot to do with those numbers.
"The thing is, you have to consider the conference they play in," Calley said. "There's not an easy game up there. They have had problems slowing people down effectively, but they haven't had any trouble the two times we played (over the past two seasons). So it's not really them I look at, I look at us."
Though they haven't had any trouble scoring themselves. Fort Smith Northside wide receiver Shaquille Jones broke the state record for career receptions earlier in the season, and has hauled in 105 passes for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. Quarterback Kenrick Burns serves as a constant dual-threat, throwing for 3,200 yards and 21 touchdowns, while running for 773 yards and 17 scores.
The numbers say a lot. And for Bryant, the fact that they've seen the high-powered attack already could go a lot way to helping reverse the outcome this time.
"It definitely gives us another perspective on how to play them," Calley said. "Now we know what to expect. We try not to make it pressure packed."
Bryant hasn't had much trouble packing an offensive punch, itself. Senior running back Karon Dismuke has run for 928 yards and eight touchdowns on 146 carries this season, including 191 yards in the Hornets' regular season finale victory over Little Rock Central. Junior quarterback Hayden Lessenberry is 156-for-235 passing for 1,963 yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Regardless of the numbers or history this season, Henry believes that the advancing in the playoffs is motivation enough for both teams.
"It's win or go home," Henry said. "I don't think that, unless it's a rivalry type game, that might be when I say that can happen, but I don't know that will be the case. I feel like (Bryant feels) like they're good enough to be in playoffs like we do and good enough to go to the next round. And they're going to go out and prove it."
Although he doesn't have any need to 'get even' with Northside, Calley admits that the though of getting a win over the Grizzlies is probably in the players' minds.
So now with the shot at evening the season series — and advancing in the playoffs — at hand, Calley hopes his teams growth will help them on Friday night. It also doesn't hurt that they won't need to take a bus.
"I definitely think we're a different team," Calley said. "We had no identity when we played (Northside) in Week 2. But we've gotten physically and mentally tough, and we know what we do well, we don't have to guess, we're not trying to find ourselves."