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Broncos efficient and lethal in third win

Wheeler: 95 Yard PICK SIX

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 10/12/22

MIDDLEBURG - Nineteen decisive first quarter points off hard running by tailback T.J. Lane and a pass bomb to Mike Mitchell may have solidified the Broncos as one of the more dangerous teams in the …

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Broncos efficient and lethal in third win

Wheeler: 95 Yard PICK SIX


MIDDLEBURG - Nineteen decisive first quarter points off hard running by tailback T.J. Lane and a pass bomb to Mike Mitchell may have solidified the Broncos as one of the more dangerous teams in the area as the Broncos dismantled Clay High to the tune of 41-12 Friday night at Middleburg High School.

“You have seen our schedule and know the caliber of teams we’ve played to this point,” Middleburg coach Ryan Wolfe has said throughout the season. “Now, we win games that we should win and hope for a playoff spot. Then we see what happens.”

The win over Clay was the third in a row for the Broncos as their district lineup begins.

With the Broncos getting some breathing room away from their tortuous first half schedule, coach Ryan Wolfe has been able to flex a little muscle on offense while watching a scrappy and energetic defensive front create chaos at the 3S level. The defensive front of Demarion Suggs, Tucker Cody and JJ Martin has been athletically destructive under coach Alan Burnsed who is a stunt kind of guy. Middle linebacker Austin Cruce continues his tough-nosed play.

Columbia is led by former Columbia standout Demetric Jackson who guided Fort White for years to top finishes and is a wide open offense kind of coach. Senior quarterback Tyler Jefferson already has 617 yards in the air with six scores plus is the second best rusher for the Tigers with 367 yards on the ground with four scores; two 100-plus games. The top guy is senior Tony Fulton with 391 yards and five scores; also two 100-plus games. Note: Both guys have four fumbles each with Columbia totalling 10 fumbles.

As for Columbia’s schedule, similiar to Middleburg nightmarishly tough first three games, the Tigers opened with losses to Buchholz (5-0), Union County (4-1) and Trinity Christian (6-0) while beating rival Madison County (2X Class 1A champion) and besting Orange Park last week.

In the FHSAA world of playoff points, both teams are at nearly the same spot in accruing points to make this game critically important for one of the coveted region spots.

On paper, Middleburg could come away, with a win here, with an unbeaten district slate with Orange Park the remaining district game.

Against Clay, the Broncos rolled quickly on the ground behind Lane who jetted 48 yards on just the third handoff for Middleburg on their first possession to score the game 6-0 with just over one minute off the clock. Kicker Wade Mathis missed on his PAT after a five yard flag moved him back.

Lane finished with 239 yards rushing on 16 carries with Mitchell gaining 117 on six carries with four pass catches for 67 yards on one score.

Clay High quarterback Merrick Rapoza, chased all night by Middleburg’s front defensive line; Demarion Suggs, Tucker Cody and JJ Carter, was unsuccessful on his first possession to finish with a punt.

After a scramble by quarterback Jaydan Jenkins put the Broncos at first down with a holding flag on the next play putting Broncos at first and 25 from their own 45, Jenkins found Mitchell on a post pattern behind Clay safety Jaden Paulk for a 66 yard scoring pass at 5:40 in the first quarter.

Lane went 55 yards on the Broncos next possession to put the Broncos at the Blue Devil six yard line before Lane plunged in two plays later, 18-0. Mathis was good, 19-0.

With 2:15 still on the clock for the first period, Clay took over with Rapoza teaming with Paulk and wide receiver Payton Dykas on a double reverse to get some yardage on offense.

Rapoza tried to hit tight end Bowen Tashjian on a post pattern with Bronco safety Errick Fryar bashing Tashjian to jar the ball loose as the end of the first quarter approached. Clay tackle Cody Mobley recovered a Chandler Thomas upfield fumble to give the Blue Devils a first down on the drive.

Dykas completed a double pass play to wide receiver Jvian Cobbert for a first down inside the Bronco 10 yard line as Clay coach Kyle Kennard tried to offset the heavy Bronco front line defensive push with some misdirection shenanigans.

On second down, the Bronco pass rush got to Rapoza on a swing pass right that got deflected into the hands of defensive end Luke Wheeler who sprinted 95 yards to paydirt with the pick six to push the score to 26-0.

Lane, with a block downfield from Jaydan Jenkins, got to the Clay 10 yard line off a 50 yard run, with six minutes to halftime. Clay got stops from linebacker Dominic Martin and Yadniel Burgos on Lane handoffs before Mathis missed a field goal attempt.

Clay scored on the ensuing drive with Rapoza hitting Dykas on a post pattern behind Fryar with 1:50 to halftime. Bronco defensive back Toshombee Jenkins intercepted Rapoza’s two point pass attempt, 26-6.

Mathis hit a field goal on the Broncos next drive to push the score to 29-6.

In the second half, Paulk caught a 62 yard touchdown pass from Rapoza.

For Middleburg, Jaydan Jenkins and Terrance Thomas both scored in the second half.