By Rob Kiser
SIDNEY — Rome was not built in a day.
And it is with that same approach that Nathan Hyatt is building the Bradford football program.
And after a 44-12 loss to Marion Elgin in a game that was much closer than the final scored indicated Saturday at Sidney Memorial Stadium/30&0 Field, Hyatt knew the Railroaders had taken another step in the right direction.
“We are a couple plays from being right in that game after three quarters,” Hyatt said. “You can’t go from 0-10 two years ago to not playing a varsity or junior high schedule two years ago to instantly turning it around. You just can’t.”
And one word consistently surfaces when Hyatt talks about his team.
“I am just so proud of these kids,” he said. “We had a rough week and were down a couple starters and had to adjust our lineup Friday night, the day before the game. We also were missing a kid who was ejected last week, so we were down three starters. But, these kids did a great job. They just keep making me proud.”
It was Bradford who struck first.
On Bradford’s second possession, Mason Justice had a 43-yard run to set up a nine-yard TD run and give the Railroaders a 6-0 lead with 4:14 to go in the first quarter. On the third play of the game, Justice also had an interception, but Bradford had been unable to take advantage of great field position.
“We were close to popping a couple big runs,” Hyatt said. “Mason (Justice) always runs hard. That kid always gives me a 120 percent.”
They were able to maintain that lead until the Comets put together a 28-yard drive with 7:18 to go in the second quarter.
Zach Murdock ran it in from nine yards out and also ran for the two-point PAT to give Elgin an 8-6 lead.
In a pivotal point in the game, Bradford nearly retook the lead.
On fourth-and-one from the Elgin 14, quarterback Andy Branson threw a short pass in the flat to Bryson Canan. Canan scored easily, but an illegal block in the back at the two-yard line brought the play back and Bradford would eventually turn the ball over on downs.
“I tried to stay aggressive with the play calling,” Hyatt said. “The kid who was called for the penalty was playing his second varsity game and he made an aggressive mistake. It was disappointing, but I can be upset about that. He just made an aggressive mistake.”
With a little over two minutes on the clock, Elgin went 89 yards in seven plays.
Quarterback Peyton Sullivan found Nathan Hickman for a 36-yard touchdown on the Comets only completion of the half and Pablo Salinas’ kick made it 15-6 at the break.
“That was a pivotal point in the game,” Hyatt said.
Bradford opened the second half with what looked like would be a big play.
But, the Roader receiver couldn’t pull the ball in and Stephan Stefanka intercepted.
“That kid is going to make that play nine times out of 10,” Hyatt said. “We had the play we wanted. That happens.”
After that, Elgin began to take control.
The Comets had a 62-yard drive, with Murdock finding the end zone from four yards out and Salinas’ kick made it 22-6.
On the final play of the third quarter, a deflected Bradford punt was returned 45 yards for a score by Bailey Barner and Sullivan ran for a two-point PAT to make it 30-6.
But, there was no quit in the Roaders.
Early in the fourth quarter, Branson hooked up with Tyler Gunter a beautiful 34-yard pass play to get the Railroaders within 30-12, before Elgin finished the scoring on a 57-yard run by Andy Mosher and a 20-yard run by Murdock.
“Andy (Branson) is playing his second game at quarterback,” Hyatt said. “What a pass. We use some concepts (on offense) you will see on Saturdays and Sundays, so is not simple.”
Justice finished with 10 carries for 82 yards for Bradford, while Branson completed 10 of 22 passes for 137 yards, while Gunter had five receptions for 92 yards.
Murdock had 193 yards on 19 carries to lead Elgin, while Sullivan had 95 yards on 18 carries and Mosher had 85 yards on six carries.
Bradford, 0-2, will play at Catholic Central Friday.
“There is no quit in these kids,” Hyatt said. “As long as they keep working, the Ws will come. I am just so proud of these kids.”
And for good reason.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.