The Bryant football program has a bright future ahead of it if the young Bryant Hornets football team is any indication of the talent pool in Saline County. Tim Adams, a Saline County resident, helped coach the Bryant Hornets football team since the players were in the third grade in 2011. He along with Greg Riggs, DJ Miller, Lee Ledbetter and Patrick Schroeder put a group of players together from the Bryant recreation league and entered them into the state football tournament in 2011 to see how they stacked up against other competition in the state. This was the start to something great when, as third graders, the boys were able to win the state football tournament.
The next season, Coach Adams along with Eric Nicholas, Miller and Ledbetter signed the young Hornets up in the Central Arkansas Youth Football League (CAYFL). They played against competition from Cabot, Jacksonville, Sherwood, North Little Rock, Maumelle, Little Rock, and Mayflower. As fourth graders, the team went 6-4 while playing mostly fifth grade teams.
“Following that season we played in the State Football Tournament again and our only loss was to the Defending National Championship team from Kansas City MO in the championship game 14-7,” Coach Adams said.
In 2013, the team really came together and the Hornets went 12-0, out gained their opponents 2600 yards to negative 96 yards on the season, and outscored their opponents 422-6. The Hornets won the CAYFL Super Bowl that year 34-0 and finished the year as the 5th ranked 12U team in the Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana area even though they were only 11 years old. In the 2014 season, the team–with a few new additions–outscored their opponents 439-28, won the CAYFL Super Bowl 53-0 and won the State Championship 34-0 over Searcy.
The team ended up beating teams from Greenwood, Conway, Sherwood, Maumelle, Lake Hamilton, Mountain Home, Cabot, NLR, Little Rock Christian, Greenbrier, Oak Grove and Sheridan on the way to both championships. For the year they finished on a 24 game win streak, ranked #1 12U team in state of Arkansas, and the #3 ranked 12U team in Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana.
The team accomplished all of these milestones with entire team consisting of only kids from Saline County. Aiden Adams, Brayden Godwin, Austin Ledbetter, Zac Feimster and Will Hanson played every game since fall of 2011 when the team was formed. Coach Adams has concluded his stint as head coach since all but three of the players will be joining the Bryant, Bethel or Benton 7th grade football programs.
“I loved coaching the group of kids the last couple of years. They are the greatest, most unselfish group of kids I have ever been around. Nothing like this could ever be achieved without the amazing parents of every last one of these kids,” Adams concluded.
Although the three-year run is over for the young Bryant Hornets football team, the players are grateful for the experience they gained by being on the team and are looking forward to the future they have in Bryant Hornet football.
“My dad always said to be the best you have to play against the best, and being on this team allowed me to practice against and play against the best football players Arkansas had to offer. We pushed each other hard every day and that made game days so much easier, and it also showed us that hard work truly pays off. The guys on this team became my brothers and I would go to battle with them against anyone, anytime. We were truly blessed to have coaches that knew when to push us, knew when to teach us and knew when to praise us. Being a Bryant Hornet was the most fun I have ever had playing sports,” Aiden Adams said.
Austin Ledbetter adds, “It’s been a great experience! I couldn’t have asked for better coaches that pushed us to be better football players and also better individuals. Our success wasn’t because we had way more talent than everyone else, it’s because we were pushed to do better and we played as a team not as individuals. Our first year playing together I didn’t know half of the team, but by the end of the year we were family and playing like family makes the game so much more fun. I enjoyed the experience and I hope every kid could learn the game of football the way I have had the chance to learn.”