Special teams doom Broncos at Bradford

By Mike Zima Correspondent
Posted 9/14/22

STARKE - The Middleburg High defense stood tall against a talent-laden Bradford offense, but three special teams miscues doomed the visiting Broncos to a 21-0 loss in a game shortened by inclement …

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Special teams doom Broncos at Bradford


STARKE - The Middleburg High defense stood tall against a talent-laden Bradford offense, but three special teams miscues doomed the visiting Broncos to a 21-0 loss in a game shortened by inclement weather on September 9.

Middleburg (0-3)
at Ponte Vedra (0-2)
One of these teams will get their first win with both teams stacking their schedules with monsters; Ponte Vedra opened with Bartram Trail (3-0) and FSU High (3-0) while Middleburg tackled Hawthorne, Bishop Kenny and Bradford, all undefeated.

Led by nose guard Tucker Cody, who had a sack and a tackle for loss, the Broncos held Bradford to just five first downs and 80 total yards in the first half. Tornadoes’ running back Manny Covey, who is committed to play for Cincinnati next fall, gained just 23 yards on seven rushes. Receiver Chalil Cummings, who is weighing scholarship offers from multiple Power 5 conference colleges, had only two catches for 30 yards. Middleburg thwarted the Tornadoes’ only sustained drive of the night when tackle B.J. Carter hit Bradford quarterback Jeremiah McKenzie from the side on a read option, forcing a fumble that was recovered by fellow tackle Demarion Suggs at the Broncos’ 25 yard line.
“I thought our defense played outstanding,” said Middleburg head coach Ryan Wolfe. “But we basically gift-wrapped Bradford three touchdowns.”
Thanks to Middleburg mistakes on punt plays that got progressively worse, the Tornadoes needed only 28 yards of offense to score three times. First, Broncos punter Ace Bullock, under heavy pressure, punted the ball only four yards from the Broncos’ 20 yard line. Due to a facemasking penalty against Middleburg on the play, Bradford began their possession from the 12 yard line. An 11 yard run by Covey set up a one yard run by McKenzie that put the hosts ahead 7-0 seven minutes into the game.
On the Broncos’ next punt attempt, Bullock went to a knee to field a low snap that had bounced to his ankles, drawing a whistle before he ever had a chance to kick the ball. The 14 yard loss gave Bradford possession at the Middleburg 16 yard line. The Tornadoes capitalized three plays later when Cummings made a diving catch of a slant pass that was first tipped by Middleburg cornerback Toshombee Jenkins.
The most bizarre of the miscues came with two minutes remaining until halftime. The Broncos had forced a Bradford punt and were poised to take the ball with a chance to cut their deficit in half.
A punt by Bradford’s Hayden Hughes rolled inside the Middleburg 30. The ball had just come to rest when Broncos linebacker Manny Cassan, who was walking slowly towards it, picked it up with the apparent intention of handing it to a nearby referee. But no whistle had been blown to end the play, and the Tornadoes’ Cole Crosby alertly slapped the ball out of Cassan’s hands. With half of the players from each time heading for their sideline, Crosby grabbed the ball and ran unchallenged to the end zone. After a brief discussion, the head referee raised his arms to signal a touchdown, giving Bradford a 20-0 lead.

“We purposefully did not put a returner back because I did not want anything crazy to happen,” said Wolfe. “We were going to just run the clock out, since we were going to receive the second-half kickoff.”
Special teams woes have been a theme for the Broncos, who lost fumbles on both kickoff and punt returns last week against Bishop Kenny.
“We have been preaching the importance of special teams the last few weeks,” said Wolfe. “We work special teams at every practice, including a good hour on Wednesdays and Thursdays. A lot of our kids have not played a whole lot of football. There are things you don’t think you need to go over, but then they come up on Fridays.”
Lightning and torrential rains arrived at halftime, along with a tornado warning. The forecast was dim for the next few hours, so the game was called before either team took the field for third quarter warm-ups.
Middleburg’s T.J. Lane again started at running back for in place of Mike Mitchell, who was serving the second of a two-game suspension. Lane, who rushed for 194 yards and two touchdowns September 2 at Bishop Kenny, found the sledding much tougher against the speedy Tornadoes, who have yet to surrender a point in eight quarters of football this season. Running lanes were clogged, and when there was a hole, it closed quickly. Lane did manage to lead all rushers with 39 yards on 11 carries. Broncos quarterback Jayden Jenkins completed just one of six passes for five yards.
Middleburg falls to 0-3 on the season, while Bradford County improved to 2-0.
The road ahead does not get any easier for the Broncos, who host Ponte Vedra on September 16. The Sharks are a Class 4S opponent and lost just 13-7 to Bartram Trail in Week one.
“I have not lost any confidence in our team,” said Wolfe. “We scheduled tough teams early in the year so we would be battle-tested at the end of the year. We will play well at the right time.”
Already without Mitchell, Middleburg’s offense took another hit on their first offensive possession when H-back Wyatt Underwood suffered a broken collarbone when he was tackled after making a catch. Underwood is expected to miss the remainder of the season.

Around the county

Ridgeview 40, Lake Weir 0
Ridgeview High (1-2) got its first win of the season behind yet another different quarterback this time with sophomore Richie Lewis getting 130 yards in the air on 12 of 16 passes with two scores. Running back Sheppard Bridges netted 76 yards and two scores on the ground with Rayhn Hutchinson adding 45 yards on 11 carries. Senior wide out Chris Baptiste caught three passes for 45 yards with sophomore Chuckie Mendat also catching three with one touchdown. Freshman Deshaun Green had a 19 yard scoring pass.
On defense, end JJ Moore had eight tackles; three for losses with Franklin Brown getting an interception.
Ridgeview travels to Tocoi Creek (2-1) on Fri., Sept. 16. Tocoi Creek beat Beachside 36-19 and Matanzas 47-22 before losing to unbeaten Bishop Kenny 25-13.

St. Johns Country Day School 45, Real Life Christian 28
St. Johns Country Day School (1-1) won its first game behind a banner day from quarterback Caden Burchfield who passed 12 times with seven catches for 214 yards and four scores. Burchfield also ran for 74 yards with one a 50 yard scoring scamper. George Friedline rushed for 28 yards and Bodie Brafford ran once for a 30 yard touchdown. The Spartans lost their opener to Duval Charter 12-2.
Brafford, in the air against Real Life, caught touchdown passes of 13 and 47 yards from Burchfield with Ian Mamea hauling in a 65 yard touchdown bomb for the Spartans. Corbin Scott also nailed a 65 yard scoring bomb. On defense, Andrew Staten led the Spartans with 12 tackles with Caleb Cameron and Trey Dubnanskhy both stopping eight ball carriers. Shane Reave snagged one interception and one fumble recovery.
St. Johns held a 31-6 advantage through the third quarter with a Brafford 30 yard run, a Burchfield to Brafford 13 yard scoring pass, a Brafford 34 yard field goal and back to back 65 yard scoring bombs to Mamea and Scott before Real Life scored three times into the fourth quarter to make the game interesting. St. Johns responded with a 47 yard pass from Burchfield to Brafford and Burchfield’s 50 yard scoring run to end the game.
St. Johns will host Ocala Christian (1-2) on Fri., Sept. 16.

Keystone Heights 0,
Fort White 28
Keystone Heights running back Cartez Daniels led the Indians offense with 55 yards rushing with the Indians losing a 28-0 contest to Fort White to fall to 0-2.
The Indians return home to host Impact Christian Academy (1-1) out of Jacksonville.


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