Freytag churns and burns, but Broncos just short

By Mike Zima Correspondent
Posted 10/13/21

MIDDLEBURG - Two touchdowns from speedy receiver Caleb Freytag and a furious second half rally could not save Middleburg from falling 35-32 to visiting Jacksonville Episcopal in a non-district game …

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Freytag churns and burns, but Broncos just short

Posted

MIDDLEBURG - Two touchdowns from speedy receiver Caleb Freytag and a furious second half rally could not save Middleburg from falling 35-32 to visiting Jacksonville Episcopal in a non-district game on Friday, October 8.

The Broncos fall to 4-2 on the season, with a critical District 4-6A matchup at Gainesville High looming on October 15.

“We came out lethargic and comatose, and this is the third time we have done this,” said Middleburg head coach Ryan Wolfe. “We have to learn that we have to show up on the opening snap.”

Wolfe was partly referring to the Broncos’ other defeat, a 54-37 loss to St. Augustine in which Middleburg saw a second half rally fall short after a poor first half.

Through two quarters, Episcopal held an 8-1 edge in first downs. running 30 plays to Middleburg’s 16. Broncos star running back Mike Mitchell had only eight yards on five carries, while quarterback Luke Padgett competed just one pass. But Middleburg headed into the intermission trailing just 21-14 thanks to two Episcopal turnovers and two big plays by Freytag.

Sophomore cornerback Omar Holcomb made a juggling interception late in the first quarter to blunt an Eagles drive. On the next play, Freytag took a handoff and swept around left end. The senior faked a cut back to the interior and outran the Eagles’ secondary 66 yards to the goal line. Padgett ran up the middle for a two-point conversion, giving the Broncos an 8-7 lead.

Early in the second quarter, Malachi Flowers intercepted a pass in the red zone. Penalties for holding, a late hit and unsportsmanlike conduct, forced Middleburg into a second down and 51 yards to go for a first down on the ensuing drive. Padgett dropped back and heaved a bomb that Freytag, running a fly pattern up the right seam, caught in stride at the Eagles 30 and sped the rest of the way to the end zone for a 65 yard score that tied the game at 14.

In the first half, the Broncos gained 131 yards on the two plays on which Freytag touched the ball, and only 25 on the other 14.

“Freytag is a legit 4.5 or lower in the 40 [yard dash],” said Wolfe. “He may be the fastest guy I have ever coached, though Mitchell may be as fast.”

Mitchell got going in the second half, along with the rest of his red and black-clad teammates. The senior gained 123 yards over the final two quarters on seven carries, including a 43 yard scamper with two minutes left in the third quarter that started an 18-7 Broncos run to end the game. Middlenburg outscored Episcopal 12-0 in the fourth quarter.

“We spread the field out a little bit, ran more pre-snap motion, and threw the ball to open up the running game,” said Wolfe.

Padgett lined up in an empty backfield and bulled his way into the end zone from two yards out to bring the Broncos within 35-26. The Broncos tried the same play for a two-point conversion, but Padgett was stopped a foot short by Episcopal linebacker Charlie Medure.

Middleburg may not have needed to go for two but for the fact that they were without injured kicker Wade Mathis. Jared Burt, normally a defensive back, missed an extra point wide after Freytag’s second touchdown and had his next attempt blocked by Episcopal’s Elijah Franklin. In all, Middleburg failed to convert on four of five extra point attempts, proving costly in a game where each team scored five touchdowns.

Padgett’s five yard touchdown pass to fullback Wyatt Underwood with 2:43 remaining brought the hosts within 35-32. On the ensuing kickoff, Burt squibbed an end-over-end bouncer to the left side, where Freytag appeared to bat the ball forward. Freytag raced to recover it, but Eagles return man Corey Scott dove underneath him to cover the pigskin.

“The [onside] kick went perfect,” said Wolfe after the game. “The ball hit the guy we wanted it to go to in the facemask.”

The Middleburg defense forced a three-and-out, giving the Broncos one last opportunity to tie or go ahead. Starting at midfield with 1:28 remaining after a 16 yard punt return by Freytag, Padgett rolled to his right and threw a sideline pass intended for Freytag. The throw was off the mark and was intercepted by Episcopal cornerback Calvin Jasey, who took a few steps forward and then gave himself up at the 49 yard line. Eagles quarterback Joe Weisner took a knee three times to run out the clock.

Until the fourth quarter, Middleburg had difficulty stopping Scott, who burned the Broncos for two touchdowns and led all receivers with five catches for 119 yards, and Eagles running back Ershod Jasey, who rushed for 138 yards and one score. Kirk Reed had two rushing touchdowns for Class 3A Episcopal, which improves to 5-1.

Thirteen penalties for 145 yards also hurt the Middleburg cause. Wolfe did not think the game was fairly officiated. “They [the penalties] were not called both ways tonight,” he said. Episcopal was penalized four times for 27 yards.

Sophomore linebacker Austin Cruce had four tackles for loss for Middleburg, which faces a stiff challenge in Gainesville. The Hurricanes are 4-2, 1-0 in District 4-6A. “They are really good,” said Wolfe. “We will have to get better in all three phases. But everything we want is still in front of us.”

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