BRADFORD – It was a meeting of two future Cross County Conference teams as Bradford hosted Tri-Village in football action Friday night.
It was a competitive game that went back and forth and looked like the team with the ball last would walk out the winner. But two late fourth quarter interceptions by the Railroaders helped them secure a 40-27 win over the Patriots.
“Those two late game interceptions in the game turned the tide for us and were big,” first-year Bradford head coach Dave McFeely said.
“This was our Michigan game for this season,” McFeely said. “That was a good football team we just played. We had to earn everything we got, and it was a good win.”
Tri-Village got things started off positive for itself when the opening kickoff bounced off a Bradford player’s helmet and was recovered by the Patriots.
It didn’t take long for Tri-Village to capitalize. After a couple of big gainers by Jared Buckley on the ground, Gavin Richards slipped a tackle, got to the outside and raced to the end zone from 23 yards out for the first score. Richards’ extra point kick was good, and the PATS lead 7-0 at 9:23.
Bradford answered the call and scored late in the first quarter on a 1-yard plunge from Dillon Reck, and with the kick by Andy Branson the game was tied 7-7.
On the first play of the second quarter Jared Buckley had a nice 33-yard run, putting the Patriots on the other side of the field. The very next play quarterback Jonny Wilson got to the edge and scampered 27 yards for the score to put the PATS back on top 13-7.
Bradford put together a nice long drive to answer. It was capped off by a 3-yard TD from Hunter Penkal to go up 14-13 at 7:14.
Tri-Village then put together a drive as well, moving the football all the way down to the 9-yard line before facing a fourth and goal.
It was tremendous defensive play by Bradford’s Branson, who timed his jump perfectly to deflect the pass just enough to keep the ball out of the waiting hands of Richards in the end zone, turning the Patriots away from a score to take over on downs.
The Patriots had one more chance to score just before the half and a wide open receiver was unable to haul in the pass at the goal line and the score would remain 14-13 at the half.
Tri-Village opened the second half on the very first play doing what it couldn’t do late in the first half. Wilson tossed a short pass in the flat to Richards, who then outran the Bradford defense and went 70 yards for the score to go back on top 19-14.
Bradford’s Mason Justice returned the favor as he turned the corner and galloped 50 yards with the go-ahead touchdown run, and with the extra point the Railroaders were back on top 21-19.
Back came the Patriots. This time it was a 90-yard TD pass from Wilson over the middle to Josh Wiford, and the two-point conversion toss to Richards put the PATS back on top 27-21.
Bradford wasn’t finished as Penkal got behind the defense and Branson found him for the score as Bradford tied the game 27-27 with just over eight minutes left in the game.
In a game that was shaping up to favor the team who had the ball last changed due the Railroaders defense coming up big with some big plays down the stretch.
It started with an interception from do-it-all Branson, who took it to the house from about 60 yards out to go up 34-27.
The backbreaking play on the night was that of defensive linebacker Adam Rostkowski, who dropped back into coverage and picked off the underneath pass and returned it to the Tri-Village 11-yard line.
Bradford finished off the big defensive play on an 11-yard run from Penkal to secure the 40-27 victory over the Patriots.
“We’ve come out and been ready the play the last three weeks and have played good football,” Coach McFeely said.
After dropping their first five games of the season the Railroaders have won three in a row and are looking to carry that momentum with them next week as they play 4-4 Northwood.
“It was one of our better games. We didn’t make a lot of mistakes tonight, and it was a lot of fun for the kids, and hopefully we can continue this as we head up to Toledo next week,” McFeely said.
For Tri-Village it was about making plays … the Patriots had opportunities but didn’t capitalize.
“Other than us getting a lucky break on the kickoff we just didn’t make the plays we needed to win this game,” Tri-Village coach Jason Schondelmyer said.
“Defensively we just didn’t hold our ground very well, and physically we aren’t where we need to be as a football team,” Schondelmeyer added. “We need to get more confidence in knowing that we can come up hard, fill spots and make plays and it’s not going to hurt us.”
Both Bradford and Tri-Village are looking to finish the season strong to help prepare them for next year as they enter the CCC.
“We are going to have 17 lettermen coming back next year. We started two freshmen tonight, so we have a lot to look forward to with Bradford football,” McFeely concluded.
Tri-Village dropped to 3-5 overall and will host 6-2 Hillcrest Academy on Friday and Coach Schondelmyer knows the last two games are very important in setting the stage for the summer and into next year.
“We have two more weeks left, and we need to finish the year strong,” Schondelmyer said. “Bottom line there is no guarantee if our numbers are good with the junior class coming back that we will have a great season next year. We need to improve these last two weeks, and we need our seniors to help us improve, and that’s very important to us right now.”
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