Broncos blast first series, but simmer in season opener

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 8/31/22

MIDDLEBURG - Against a two-time Class 1A state runnerup, Middleburg High hit a 65 yard first pass to Mike Mitchell to set up a touchdown plunge from T.J. Lane as the Broncos roared out of the locker …

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Broncos blast first series, but simmer in season opener


MIDDLEBURG - Against a two-time Class 1A state runnerup, Middleburg High hit a 65 yard first pass to Mike Mitchell to set up a touchdown plunge from T.J. Lane as the Broncos roared out of the locker room, but playoff experience and some questionable refereeing spelled doom for the Broncos who eventually lost 24-7 to Hawthorne in the season opener for both schools at Middleburg.
“Obviously, we didn’t want to lose the ball game, but there are a ton of positives that happened on the field,” said Middleburg coach Ryan Wolfe. “I hope the kids learned that against a team of this caliber, a state title contender in Florida, we have to be perfect. And we weren’t. We were right there.”
Both Mitchell and Lane were dethrottled to just 41 and 42 yards by the massive Hawthorne defensive front line with 6-3, 300 pound defensive tackle Stanley Cooks creating chaos in the Bronco backfield all night. Hawthorne’s entire front defensive line were all near 300 pounds.
“We just went toe to toe with one of the better programs in Florida,” said Wolfe. “We’ll see how we respond from this. Our kids have to know we aren’t playing average football teams in the next four weeks before district games start.”

Middleburg (0-1) at
Bishop Kenny (1-0)
Broncos took a hard lesson in state title football with a rugged match against Class 1A two-time state runnerup Hawthorne to open the season and came away with a hard-fourth, rainy 24-7 loss.
Broncos showed good offensive spark with T.J. Lane and Mike Mitchell both having sporadic success, but Middleburg got some timely pass catches as well as some pass drops and motion flags to negate success on offense.
On defense, Aidan Postemski at safety intercepted and almost locked down a top draw wide receiver (one long pass for big gain) and the defensive line; Demarion Suggs, Tucker Cody and Tony Steele battled a mammoth offensive line.
Bishop Kenny comes in with 27-0 thrashing of First Coast team that was winless last year (0-10).
Bishop Kenny was 8-3 last year with a 52-24 playoff loss to Wakulla in the region opener.
“We got Bishop Kenny, Bradford, Ponte Vedra in the next three weeks,” said Wolfe. “Bishop Kenny coach Tim Krause is a great playcaller and their quarterback, James Resar (1266 Yds, 13TDs last year), could be playing anywhere in the country. Ponte Vedra almost beat Bartram Trail last week and Bradford had a big game against Baker County (21-0 at half, game called lightning, continue week 7) and Oakleaf in their spring game.”

35 yard opening kickoff
Middleburg’s few highlights of the game included a 35 yard opening kickoff return from Jayden Boyd that gave the Broncos position at the Bronco 38 to set up a diving sideline catch by Mitchell for a the first down.
Middleburg quarterback Jaydan Jenkins would find Mitchell again after two stuffs on handoffs by the Hawthorne defense.
On the third down, Jenkins found Mitchell in the center of the field near the Hawthorne five yard line to put the Broncos on the goal line with less than a minute off the clock.
A full house backfield; Wyatt Underwood up front, got pushed with guard Khoda Moses as Lane powered into the end zone for a 6-0 lead. Kicker Wade Mathis’ kick pushed the score to 7-0 with 7:44 left in the first quarter.
“We came and found out we could throw the ball quickly on them, but that our running game struggled,” said Wolfe. “We got a good scramble from Jaydan, a good conversion on third down and we punched it in and were up 7-0 very quickly.”
With Hawthorne’s offensive line matching up in girth to the Bronco offensive line; nearly 300 pounds across the front, the Hornets looked to attack the front of the Bronco defense.
Bronco nose tackle Demarion Suggs, just 5’-8”, 230 pounds, was able to sneak past the Hornets offensive line numerous times throughout the game to disrupt the backfield.
“He has a high motor and I call it twitchy,” said Wolfe. “He gets great starts off the snap and can get a step or two deep before those big guys can get their hands on him.”
Hawthorne had their own “little” guy in wide out Ga’mon Randall, a 5’-6”, 145 pounder, who was able to get downfield for passes through the night.
Hawthorne quarterback C.J. Ingram, son to head coach Cornelius Ingram, had open receivers early in the half, but could not find the connection with Ingram dumping a fluttering out pass to Randall that was just over the outstretched hand of Russell on defense.
A quarterback draw for 24 yards by Ingram for the Hawthorne offense put the game at 7-6 with 5:06 still left in the quarter.
With less than three minutes, Toshombee Jenkins put his kickoff return at the Bronco 26 to start the Broncos’ next offensive set with a five yard penalty for illegal procedure the first flag of the night.
Jenkins had Mitchell behind the defense on third down, but the ball caromed off Mitchell’s fingers to force a punt.
“That was a critical drop,” said Wolfe. “We were moving the ball at that point.”
On the punt, with Mitchell as punter, a bad snap left Mitchell in the grasp of a handful of Hawthorne tacklers to end the quarter with Hawthorne in the Bronco red zone.
With Hawthorne deep in Bronco territory, Suggs ramped up to steal eight yards on a sack plus a second down incomplete pass in front of safety Aidan Postemski near the five yard line to force a third down.
On third and 17 at the Bronco 28, Hawthorne got a pass to 6’-6” wide out Jailen Ruth to push the score to 12-7. Kicker Sam Carroll got mauled on the snap to keep the score 12-7 with 11 minutes to halftime, but flags were flying.
On the ensuing kickoff, Wyatt Underwood caught the floater at the Bronco 41.
After a Jenkins jaunt for nine, more flags littered the field as officials answered with a first and 15 for Middleburg with Mitchell again mishandling a pass on first down.
Now facing second and 20, Jenkins got intercepted on a long pass by Hawthorne safety Darian Smith-Williams who returned the snag to the Bronco 37. Toshombee Jenkins made the score-saving tackle.
Ingram hit wide out Terrell James at the Bronco 14 yard line, but flags put the ball back to the Bronco 40 with a second and 12.
Middleburg’s defense, plus three flags for various infractions, held to create a third and 18.
On the snap, Hawthorne fumbled with linebacker Austin Cruce emerging with the ball, but officials called the play dead with Middleburg flagged for offsides.
Now at third and 12, Ingram passed for the first down at the Bronco 10 on a bootleg with seven minutes left in the half.
Bronco defensive back Errick Fryer broke up a pass on second down with Hawthorne at third and 12 before Postemski stepped in front of the next pass before stepping out of bounds to thwart the drive at 7:16 to go.
“He was our defensive MVP for that game and our defensive line played great against a very good offensive line,” said Wolfe.
Middleburg opened with Lane stutter-stepping for six to the Bronco 16 then getting sacked with his helmet flying off on second down, but no flags.
On third down, Underwood’s helmet gets removed on a first down run by Lane, but no flags.
At the Bronco 21, Jenkins hit Mitchell on a slant pass for nine to the 30 with flags following; Broncos for holding.
Jenkins flubbed a lateral that Lane recovered on the six to make a second and 25 after Postemski’s interception.
Lane made up 15 of the 25 behind Landen Padgett before Jenkins got sacked and lost the ball on the Bronco nine yard line.
With 2:05 in the half, Postemski rocked Ingram on a sweep to dislodge the ball in the end zone with a penalty flag for holding against Middleburg putting the score at 18-7.
Late in the second quarter, Mitchell exploded down the sideline with a high kick jaunt for a 25 yard first down at the 45 of Hawthorne. The drive stalled to force a Mitchell punt to the Hawthorne 10 with 1:25 in the half. Hawthorne took a knee to end the half.
A kickoff tackle by Luke Wheeler and hold flag put Hawthorne at fourth and five after another quarterback hurry by Suggs.
On the Hawthorne punt, the snap was mishandled with Russell coming up with the ball at the Hornet seven yard line.
Hawthorne’s defense held at the three yard line to bring in Mathis for a field goal attempt but holder Joe Forte bobbled the snap and got smothered with Hawthorne taking over at the 15 with 7:18 left in the quarter.


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