In final regular-season games Friday, Conway and Bryant went down to the wire.
Greenbrier and Vilonia not so much.
Bryant (9-1, 6-1) drove 76 yards against a tiring Conway defense, using a 36-yard pass from Jake Meaders to Braylon Butler that led to Cameron Vail’s 1-yard run to give the Hornets their first lead, 35-31, with 2:32 left at John McConnell Stadium. After a fourth-down sack against the Cats’ catchup attempt, Vail took a direction snap and scored a cushion TD for the Hornets’ 42-31 victory that clinched a No. 2 seed from the Central Conference and a bye into the 7A state playoffs.
Conway (7-3, 5-2) will go into the playoffs as the No. 3 seed from the Central and will play sixth-seeded Rogers at home Friday in the first round.
At Vilonia, Greenbrier (7-3, 5-2) took a 34-6 victory over Vilonia (1-9, 1-6) then the West went wild after Maumelle upset Alma. Thus, Alma, Greenbrier, Harrison and Morrilton finished in a four-way tie for the conference title and No. 1 seed. After Arkansas Activities Association officials officials sorted out the tiebreakers, Alma remained the No. 1 seed and Greenbrier took No. 2. The Panthers will host Camden Fairview on Friday in the first round.
The Panthers will play Hot Springs Lakeside next week in the first round of the 5A playoffs.
Conway, playing passion and energy, got out of the gates fast, scored in four plays after a kickoff return by Will Kennedy to the Bryant 48. After three runs by Michael George, who rushed for 198 yards, got the ball to the 11, Alex Hreha connected with Will McKenna in the corner of the end zone for the touchdown.
An interception by Jackson Freeman led to an 11-yard sweep by George to put the Cats up 14-0.
After Bryant mounted a steady drive to pull within 14-7, George broke on a 67-yard TD run to put Conway up 21-7 with 1:09 left in the first quarter.
The Hornets came back with a touchdown on a 17-yard sweep by Latavian Scott.
After the Conway defense stopped Bryant deep in its territory, Jordan Wicks booted a 41-yard field goal to put the Cats up 24-14 at the half.
Jake Meaders connected with Brandon Murray for his second touchdown to draw Bryant within 24-21 with 1:27 left in the third.
After a dropped pass by Bryant on fourth down, Hreha flipped a pass to Chris Anderson, who found an opening down the sideline and juked and plowed his way to the 2. George scored on the net play to put Conway up 31-24 with 1:09 left in the game.
Bryant responded by with Meaders and Murray connecting for their third TD, a 56-yarder to cut the lead by to three, setting the stage for the last minute heroics.
Bryant’s strong defensive front held Conway to 96 yards the second half.
Greenbrier 34, Vilonia 6
At Phillip Weaver Stadium, Greenbrier surged to a 20-0 halftime lead.
Andrew Johnson connected with Grant Brown for a 3-yard touchdown and passes 35 yards to Reese Hammontree for another. Spencer Sutterfield padded the lead with a 6-yard run with 51 seconds left in the half.
After Vilonia's Cody Mitchell scored a touchdown, Sutterfield and Howard put things away with fourth-quarter TD runs.