Conway running backs Karlil Johnson and Kevin Chamorro combined to rush for more than 200 yards and three touchdowns to help the Wampus Cats to a 24-7, season-opening victory over the Bryant Hornets on Friday night at Centennial Bank Field at John McConnell Stadium.
The Hornets’ defense received a heavy dose of both junior tailbacks throughout the night, as the duo had 37 rushes.
Behind strong blocking from the Wampus Cats’ offensive line, Johnson finished with two touchdowns and 131 yards on 17 carries, while Chamorro added one touchdown and 83 yards on 20 carries.
“I thought both of them played hard,” coach Clint Ashcraft said. “The one thing I like is they pull for each other.
“There was no ‘I want to stay in’ or discrepancy or argument over who was in,” the fifth-year Conway coach said. “It was all about (the team) and getting the win.”
Conway quarterback Breylin Smith was not relied on heavily, but looked efficient in his first start for the Wampus Cats. The sophomore, who received a scholarship offer from Central Arkansas in the offseason, completed all three of his passes on the night, all to senior receiver Sidney Moore, for 74 yards.
“When you have a sophomore quarterback, first Friday night, you kind of try to take care of him a little bit,” Ashcraft said. “Our offensive line and running backs were doing such a good job, we didn’t have to put too much on him. I think, as our season progresses, you’ll see us putting more and more on him.”
The Hornets had multiple opportunities to make things interesting, but suffered two turnovers, both fumbles, in the red zone.
The first mishap occurred just before halftime when pressure caused junior quarterback Brandan Warner to fumble, while attempting a rollout pass on a 1st-and-goal play. The fumble was recovered by Conway’s Andre Willard, who returned it to the Conway 36.
Willard was also involved in the Hornets’ second red zone turnover, which happened late in the third quarter. After a Chamorro fumble near midfield, a solid return and a few running plays set up the Hornets with a 1st-and-goal, inside the Conway 5.
However, Bryant fumbled away another chance at a touchdown. The fumble, caused by Willard near the goal line, was recovered by senior Justin Vinson in the end zone for a touchback.
“It seemed like we always caught a break when they got down in the red zone,” Ashcraft said. “If kids are playing hard and flying to the ball, good things happen.”
Conway’s defense also received strong performances from junior Collin Condit and senior AJ Burton. The duo had multiple pass breakups, including one by Burton on a Bryant pass in the end zone.
Condit’s breakup occurred in the opening drive of the game on a fourth-down attempt by the Hornets. The defensive stop gave Conway the ball on its own 40.
After eight run plays from Johnson and Chamorro, the Wampus Cats got their first points of the night on a 29-yard run by Johnson at the 5:28 mark in the first quarter.
Conway junior kicker Matt Cummins made the lead 10-0 on a 34-yard field goal with just over seven minutes left in the second quarter.
A second touchdown run by Johnson on Conway’s next possession, this time a 15-yard scamper, put the Wampus Cats ahead 17-0 with 3:18 left in the first half. Conway led, 17-0, at the half.
Receiving the kickoff to begin the third quarter, Conway embarked on a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to extend its lead to 24-0 with 7:46 left in the third quarter.
Chamorro scored the Wampus Cats’ last touchdown on a direct snap from 3 yards out. It was a formation that Conway fans were used to seeing last year, around the goal line, that featured graduated lineman Brannon Kotch.
According to Ashcraft, it appears the “big-bodied” Chamorro, who is listed at 5-foot-10 and 205 pounds, has earned the goal line role on this year’s team.
“He runs with real low pad-level,” Ashcraft said. “He’s physical. He earned that spot.”
Bryant dashed Conway’s hopes of a shutout, scoring its first and only touchdown of the night on a 3-yard run by Warner with 6:04 remaining in the game. The play capped off a 12-play, 55-yard drive for the Hornets.
Warner finished the night 12 of 21 for 104 yards.
Bryant was led on the ground by junior Brendan Young who had 74 yards on 14 carries. Young also added 10 yards on two catches.
The Wampus Cats head to Jonesboro on Sept. 13 to face the Hurricane, of the 7A/6A East. Conway and Jonesboro played last year at John McConnell Stadium, but the game was canceled in the middle of the first quarter due to lightning and severe weather.
Jonesboro, who defeated Greene County Tech, 56-15, on Friday, finished the 2012 season with a 9-3 record, losing to Pine Bluff in the 6A semifinals.
It’s the first of two road games, the second Sept. 20 at Cabot, before Conway returns home to face Russellville, in its conference opener, on Sept. 27.
(Staff writer Lee Hogan can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 505-1246. Follow Lee Hogan on Twitter at https://twitter.com/LCD_LeeHogan. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)