In a game buzzing high on “upset alert,” the underdog Bridgeton High School football team managed to derail their own rally against undefeated St. Augustine.
Trailing 21-12 heading into the fourth quarter, Bridgeton played “toe-to-toe” with the conference rival Hermits, according to Bulldogs coach Dave Ellen. However, three late turnovers by quarterback Ronald Williams, as well as the persistent rushing of St. Augustine’s Lamont Harris Jr., swung the gates open in a 35-12 Hermits win.
Williams, who had thrown for a conservative 66 yards on seven completions at halftime, said that the Hermits’ continuous defensive pressure forced his hand.
“They were flushing me out, but I was forcing the ball out there, too,” he said. “I could have been more patient with my throws.”
Ellen chalked the turnovers up to what the situations called for.
“You have to get more aggressive with moving the ball when you’re down,” he said.
The Bulldogs trailed the entire game, as Hermit quarterback Jose Tabora connected with tight end Chad Penny on a 25-yard post route for a touchdown three minutes in. Penny, playing sidekick to receiver Austin Francisco, managed to find space in the seam for most of the night, and he finished with four catches for 66 yards.
Tabora averaged 16 yards per completion on the night, and his explosive season with Francisco continued, as he found the 6-foot-3 senior for eight catches and 143 yards — including a 90 yard touchdown that put the Hermits definitively ahead by two scores in the second quarter.
Francisco, who made the big play on a double-move route, earned the respect of Ellen from the sidelines.
“The kid’s good,” he said. “The play before that, he ran a slant route and we had some heads on him. He came up hobbling, but made that big play immediately afterwards.”
Big plays were in lesser stock for Bridgeton, as primary rusher Stefon Bowman only reached 14 yards on eight carries. Cappadonna Miller found the endzone on an eight-yard sweep rush, but was then held to 10 yards on five carries. Quasheem Taylor provided the Bulldogs a jolt with 61 yards on six carries — as well as an early interception returned for a touchdown.
“He’s an explosive kid,” Ellen said. “He can bust one at any time. But, we just didn’t have any of (those) big-play moments on offense.”
Both of Williams’ interceptions came within 20 yards of the end zone. Williams thought the Bulldogs were too reliant on his arm when players like Taylor were setting a better offensive tone.
“(The inside rushing game) was really working, but once we got in the redzone we went to the pass,” he said. “We shouldn’t have given up on the run. They capitalized, and we didn’t. And that killed us.”
Ellen agreed that the Bulldogs failed to deliver on opportunistic drives, but found positives in the game. He called his defense’s performance against the conference-leading offense “great” and said he admired his team’s fight.
“We faced a lot of adversity today,” he said. “There were definitely some positives, but we need to focus on our errors for now.”
Williams added, “It’s a tough pill to swallow, but we can’t dwell on it. The playoffs are coming.”
Miller totaled 62 yards receiving on three catches and added a third quarter interception. Nazir Williams led the Bulldogs receiving corps with eight catches for 71 yards.
St,. Augustine 35, Bridgeton 12
|St. Augustine (5-0)||14||7||0||14||—||35|
SA: Penny 25 pass from Tabora (Snow kick)
B: Taylor 21 interception return (pass failed)
SA: Harris 60 run (Snow kick)
B: Miller 9 run (pass failed)
SA: Francisco 90 pass from Jose Tabora (Snow kick)
SA: Harris 1 run (Snow kick)
SA: Tabora 2 run (Snow kick)
|Team stats||St. Augustine||Bridgeton|
Rushing: B-Quasheem Taylor 6-61, Cappadonna Miller 7-19, Stefon Bowman 9-14, Ronald Williams 4-(-5);SA- Lamont Harris 27-150, Jose Tabora 6-1.
Passing: B-R. Williams 15-28-2, 166 yards; SA-Tabora 14-22-2, 223 yards.
Receiving: B-Nazir Williams 8-71, Miller 3-62, Taylor 2-11, Bowman 1-12, Markquise Bell 1-10; SA-Austin Francisco 8-142, Chad Penny 4-66, Daniel Pavlik 2-16.