There may be no place like home, but Bryant has found a venue they enjoy playing in almost as much as their regular digs at Hornet Stadium.
Bryant is 15-0-1 at War Memorial Stadium since 2008. Bryant has been dominant against Benton in annual Salt Bowl rivalry game yearly at the stadium. But the Hornets have really owned anyone they’ve played there over the 10-year run. Bryant plays conference games against Little Rock Catholic there every other year and beat North Little Rock for the Class 7A State Championship, the school’s first, in Little Rock last December.
“I think our kids get excited about playing [at War Memorial Stadium],” Bryant Coach Buck James said. “It is a big deal playing there. It counts for something.”
After sharing snaps with departed senior Ren Hefley, who is walking on at Michigan, junior quarterback Austin Ledbetter (6-1, 190) takes the reins of the Hornets’ offense. Ledbetter completed 33 of 68 passes for 549 yards with 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He passed for 192 yards and 2 scores in the semifinal win against Fort Smith Northside and played the second half in the title game against North Little Rock a week later.
Ledbetter, a pitcher/shortstop, has already committed to play baseball at Arkansas and now is being recruited by the Hogs to play football. Ledbetter also handles the punting duties for the Hornets. “Austin has a ton of talent and knows how to win. I think that is contagious to our kids,” James said.
Senior Ahmad Adams (6-0, 235) pulled double duty last year while star linebacker Jakob Neel was on the shelf for the first eight weeks. He also relieved standout running back Latavion Scott, who is walking on at Arkansas State, admirably running for 408 yards on 65 carries and rattling off a 31-yard TD against Little Rock Central. Adams, the 220-pound state wrestling champion, has scholarship offers from Austin Peay, Illinois State and Ouachita Baptist.
“You can’t arm tackle him; he’s tough to bring down,” James said. James added that Adams will also rotate at linebacker.
Juniors Myles Aldridge (6-2, 205), who will also play receiver, and Xavier Foote (5-9, 155) are vying for snaps behind Adams.
Senior Jake Meaders (5-10, 175) is the most versatile Hornet. Meaders filled in several games at quarterback two years ago when Hefley was injured. Last season Meaders (4.0 GPA, 34 ACT) caught 46 passes for 597 yards and 5 TDs.
“He only lost one game as a starter at quarterback, but his natural college position is receiver, and he makes things happen,” James said. “He returns punts and plays other special teams and can be out there 75 or 80 plays. He is kind of like our [New England Patriots star] Julian Edelman.”
Junior River Gregory (5-9, 155) impressed last season in his varsity debut with 4.5 speed and his knack of making big catches including a 32-yard touchdown against Fayetteville.
Classmate Hayden Schrader (6-2, 205) played receiver and tight end a year ago and snagged a 61-yard touchdown against Little Rock Central and recovered a muffed punt, which set up a touchdown in the first half of the title-game win against North Little Rock.
Senior Jaegar Burks (5-8, 155) cracked the starting lineup occasionally last season and impressed in the spring. Burks (4.6 speed) totaled 30 receiving yards and a touchdown against Fort Smith Southside. Classmate Drake Findley (6-0, 180) also started at times last season and James said he could be a force on the outside with his size and speed. Senior Tre’Vun Herron (5-8, 170) started at times in the backfield and the slot last season and seeks more snaps this fall. Classmate Brandon Barber (5-9, 160) impresses James with his work ethic and improvement.
Junior Joseph Young (6-1, 180) started two games at safety last season but moves to receiver to give the Hornets a deep threat.
Senior all-conference left guard Tanner Wilson (5-11, 275) is the only holdover from one of the better line groups in the state last fall. “He is getting stronger and with his tenacity, he could be a great lineman,” James said. “He will be the bell cow of the group.”
Junior tackle Logan Pritchard (6-0, 245) joins Wilson on the left side after solidifying a starting role in the spring.
James said inexperienced seniors Devin Pitts (6-3, 280) and Jacob Reynolds (5-10, 215) will continue to fight for the center job in fall camp.
Senior Reece Dawson (6-5, 280) saw some time last year and enters fall camp as the starting right tackle. Classmate Ty Johnson (6-3, 280) lines up next to Dawson at guard.
Senior kicker Brock Funk (5-10, 165) emerged as the starting kicker late last season, including a start in the state title game. He drilled 9 of 10 extra-points. After gaining 40 pounds in the offseason, he impressed James in the spring with his increased range.
Bryant’s stellar defensive front from a season ago is depleted following the departure of star seniors, but senior end Austin Bailey (6-1, 275) hopes to pick up the slack. Bailey (385-pound bench press, 330-pound power clean and 550-pound squat) racked up 53 tackles with eight for loss in 2018, earning all-conference honors. He has scholarship offers from Illinois State, Tennessee-Martin, Harding, Henderson State and Ouachita Baptist among others. “He is somebody [the opponent] is going to have to plan for,” James said.
Junior Rodricho Martin (6-2, 190) saw significant snaps last season and seeks the other end spot. Senior Taylor Daniels (5-11, 200) also worked at end in the spring along with senior twins Kennedy Miller (6-2, 245) and Kendrick Miller (6-2, 235).
Senior Kyle Green (6-0, 230) started three games inside last fall. Classmate David Shifflett (6-2, 265) is also candidate to start inside thanks in part to packing on 25 pounds in the offseason. Rugged senior tackle Andy Scott (5-10, 280) draws praise from James for his toughness and attitude.
Senior linebacker Catrell Wallace (6-6, 225) has 15 NCAA Division I scholarship offers including Arkansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma State and Ole Miss. Wallace, who was the starting center on the Hornets state championship runner-up basketball team, racked up 70 tackles last fall while also lining up at end and safety.
“He can do so many things on the football field,” James said. “You can see that watching him on the kickoff team – he’s always the first one to the ball. He plays with a lot of tenacity and does a lot of things you can’t coach.”
Classmate Daylon Land (6-0, 215) started two games last fall, including the title game in which he collected six tackles. Senior Cameron Scarlett (5-9, 200) seeks more snaps in the fall with his knack for stopping the run. Junior Brayden Godwin (5-10, 180) earned a starting job a year ago but was lost for the season with an ankle injury in fall camp. =
Junior Tristan Sehika (6-0, 175) earned Bryant’s Special Teams Player of the Year honor last year and impressed in the spring. Junior Koby Melton (6-2, 185) also impressed on special teams a year ago and hopes to see more snaps at linebacker.
Senior cornerback Darrick Rose (5-10, 165) “got picked on” playing opposite of star Andrew Hayes last fall but held his own, James said while registering 24 tackles. Classmate Christian Cain (5-11, 175) lines up on the opposite side. Cain rotated last fall and totaled four pass breakups.
Senior safety Tamaurion Wilson (6-2, 180) racked up 50 tackles and forced two fumbles last fall. Wilson has scholarship offers from Henderson State and Ouachita Baptist. Seniors Ty Jones (5-7, 150) and Kyle Meachum (5-9, 160) continue to battle for a safety spot.
Classmate Damian Constantino (5-9, 155) also worked at safety after contributing on special teams as a junior. Classmates Avery Montoya (5-10, 170) and Julian Gomez (6-0, 160) will figure in the secondary as will junior brothers (4.5 speed) Kaleb (6-0, 170) and Kyle Knox (6-0, 170).