Branson High School got a playmaker back Thursday night, while Glendale lost one of its best.
And for teams that came into the Class 5 first-round district playoff football game at Pirate Stadium with a combined 5-13 record and scoring 11.1 points a game, that’s a huge deal.
Junior running Isaiah Daniels played his first full game since midseason, allowing backfield mate Da’Quan Ervin to run wild in a 34-7 victory over Glendale.
“He’s had a tough year,” Branson coach Steve Hancock said about Daniels, who has battled injuries.
“But we’re glad to have him back. We had the best backfield we had all year.”
Branson compiled 415 rushing yards, with Ervin notching 170 and Daniels 126. Both backs had two touchdowns.
Branson (4-6) plays Wednesday at district top seed Ozark in a rematch of a 51-14 rout for the Tigers on Sept. 28.
Meanwhile, Glendale lost junior running back Justin Starks midway through the second quarter on Thursday with a lower-neck injury.
“When he left, he was moving all of his extremities, and he gave everybody a thumbs-up on the way out,” Glendale coach Tyler Overstreet said.
“At halftime, we got a little news that things got scary on the ambulance ride up there, but we’re just praying that everything is going to be all right.”
Down 12-0 at the time of the injury, Glendale scored on a 1-yard touchdown run by Will Rogers on the next play after Starks’ run took it to the goal line.
The Falcons (2-8) missed a 37-yard field goal on the final play of the half, though, and Branson scored on its first two possessions of the third quarter on runs from Ervin and Jordan Bailey.
“They really turned to Daniels, and he kind of took over,” Overstreet said. “He’s a game-changer, and he changed the face of the game in the second half.”
Daniels’ return to the lineup changes things for Ervin, who has played tailback, fullback and flanker this season for Hancock.
“Knowing what Isaiah does, he’s a huge asset to the team,” Ervin said. “He does great on defense (as a safety), he does great on offense, blocking. It just feels great with him being out there.”
The loss finished Overstreet’s first season after Glendale reached the playoffs last year, and then graduated a talented senior class.
“You just let the seniors know that you appreciate everything they did because our seniors did a great job for us,” Overstreet said. “For the younger guys, it’s these ones that we’ll remember going into the offseason to make next season even better.”
Glendale mustered 235 yards of total offense, led by Rogers, who was 12-for-24 passing for 108 yards in his final high school game.
“I thought we controlled the line of scrimmage (against Glendale) pretty well, but I know Ozark has a pretty good line of scrimmage,” Hancock said.
“I felt like our defense stepped it up tonight, and played well. That’s a big plus.”