For a few hours Friday night, Farris Stadium could have been Northside Stadium in the 1980s.
Those were the years when Northside ISD rivals Holmes and Jay played before overflow crowds annually at the facility now known as Gustafson Stadium.
The atmosphere was similarly electric Friday night at Farris Stadium, where new NISD rivals Brandeis and O’Connor faced off before an overflow crowd of 10,000.
Brandeis rolled to a 42-3 rout to take sole possession of first place in District 27-6A Zone B with its 22nd consecutive district victory. The Broncos improved to 8-0 overall and 3-0 in the Zone B race, while O’Connor slipped to 5-2 and 2-1.
Brandeis led only 7-3 before it capitalized on two turnovers, scoring two touchdowns in a span of 48 seconds to take a 21-3 halftime lead.
“People are going to see the score, but credit is due O’Connor,” Brandeis coach John Campbell said. “That first half was nip-and-tuck. It was neck-and-neck. The two turnovers were the difference, and gave us a little bit of breathing room to open up our offense and let our defense settle down a little bit. That first half, minus those two turnovers, it’s a dogfight.
“I thought that the game was everything that we expected, that everybody expected, up until that juncture. Those two turnovers – bang, bang – totally different ball game. Totally changes the complexion of the game.”
Brandeis, which opened in 2008, now leads the series with the Panthers 5-2. The Broncos haven’t lost a district game since falling to, fittingly, O’Connor 17-14 on Oct. 7, 2011.
Friday night’s game was expected to pick up where last year’s memorable Brandeis-O’Connor clash left off, but as the score indicates, there was no drama this time.
Junior running back Dukes rushed for three touchdowns
The Broncos won last year’s game 12-10 on a 30-yard field goal by junior Patricio Botello with no time left – after the O’Connor bench was penalized on what would have been the last play of the game.
Brandeis left no doubt this time, scoring 42 unanswered points after O’Connor took a 3-0 lead on a 22-yard field goal by Ronnie Zuniga with 3:17 left in the first quarter. Junior running back Jaylon Dukes led the onslaught, rushing for 105 yards and three touchdowns.
Only 5-foot-5 and 150 pounds, Dukes kept the Panthers on their heels with his speed and cat-like quickness.
“Some of those runs, I don’t know what to say,” Campbell said. “Other than I’m glad we have him on our team.”
Still, the Broncos led only 7-3 before they capitalized on two turnovers to stun the Panthers with two TDs in a span of 48 seconds.
The first turnover came when defensive back Ryo Onque picked off a pass by O’Connor quarterback Jonathan McEntire at the Panthers’ 19 with 1:35 left in the first half. Two plays later, Dukes went left on a sweep before reversing his field and scoring an 11-yard TD around right end with 1:22 left.
Disaster struck O’Connor on the ensuing kickoff when Brandeis senior defensive end Louis Guindazola recovered a fumble at the Panthers’ 13.
Dukes scored on a 15-yard run three plays later and Botello kicked the extra point to put the Broncos up 21-3 with 34 seconds left in the half. A defender almost pulled Dukes to the ground by his jersey sleeve near the line of scrimmage, but the slippery runner shook him off and sped toward the end zone.
“We didn’t do anything exceptional at the line of scrimmage on those plays,” Campbell said, referring to Dukes’ two TDs runs late in the second quarter. “Jaylon just made some phenomenal runs at some real critical moments.”
Trying to swing the momentum its way, O’Connor opened the second half with an onside kick. The Panthers pounced on the loose ball at the Brandeis 45 and put together a promising drive, but their hopes were dashed when they came up a yard short on fourth-and-2 at the 8.
Five plays later, the Broncos put the game away with an 82-yard TD pass from Paul Lozano to Peyton Hall.
Brandeis’ other two TDs, both in the fourth quarter, came on a 17-yard interception return by Graham Pace and 1-yard run by Tommy Woods.
“You prep, you work and it doesn’t matter the number of the jersey on the kid,” Campbell said. “If you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing and you’re prepping a kid the way he’s supposed to be prepping and he’s playing the way he’s supposed to be playing, he’s going to have an opportunity to make plays.”
Brandeis is not 39 points better than O’Connor, but what we saw Friday night is what happens when a team gives the Broncos extra possessions by turning over the ball.
By any measure, Brandeis is pretty doggone good.