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By Ryan Butler
It may not have been the cleanest win, but the Bronson High School varsity’s most recent victory has left the Eagles with a record that couldn’t be any better.
BHS ran over Jacksonville’s Cedar Creek Christian at home Sep. 13, never trailing in a 45-12 win. The Eagles are now 3-0, the best record the school has had in at least a decade.
Bronson has now won more games this season than it has in the last three seasons combined.
Running early and often, the Eagles ground attack pummeled the Saints on the ground. Defensively, the Eagles also stayed aggressive, achieving, at least in the season’s early stages, much of the smash-mouth mentality second-year head coach Cameron Porch was looking to implement from day one as leader of the program.
Even with several big runs and exciting scores, the most enthusiastic reaction from the Bronson players came on a devastating tackle on a special teams play in the second half. Though the game was out of hand, the play served as a microcosm of the team’s heavy-hitting mindset.
Porch congratulated his players on the game but shortly after the post-game handshake was already talking up his plans for improvement for the team’s Sep. 20 game against Branford. Though he appreciated the effort and the outcome, he stressed the need for cleaner play, particularly in the secondary.
The hometown Bronson crowd was just excited to see its team competitive again. Starting with two early touchdowns in the first quarter, the home stands were loud, engaged and energized until fireworks went off over the field after the final whistle for a post- game celebration.
Bronson’s play has made it easy to cheer for them.
Brad Cates raced from 60 yards out within the first minute of the game, putting his team up 7-0 following the extra point. Cates added another long run on the Eagle’s second possession before Brock Bower finished the drive with a run. Cates then added on a successful two-point conversion, allowing Bronson to jump out to a 15-0 lead with less than four minutes gone in the first quarter.
The Saints responded on their third drive, with quarterback Terence Sapp throwing a bullet to a streaking Willie Cummings on a fly route, getting behind the BHS defense and outracing the secondary for the score from more than 50 yards out. The extra point attempt was fumbled by the snapper, and a desperation pass to salvage the extra point was overthrown.
CCC failed on an on-side kick attempt on the ensuing kick-off, setting up Bronson near midfield on its next possession. Bower and Cates spearheaded another drive of pounding runs before Cates bulldozed through the CCC defense for a two-yard touchdown run at the 9:09 mark in the second quarter. Bower added a two-point conversion on an outside toss, putting his team up 23-6.
Cedar Creek Christian would never seriously threaten again.
A fumbled snap on a punt set up another Bronson scoring opportunity late in the first half. Beginning at the CCC 15-yard line, the Eagles again ran through the line with Montrez Jackson scampering in for another touchdown. Bower added another two-point conversion, and the Eagles entered halftime with a 31-6 lead and complete control of the game.
Bronson also excelled on defense and special teams, particularly in the first half. While the Eagles gained 194 yards on the ground before the break, they held their opponents to 26 yards during the same stretch.
The Eagles harassed the Saints, chasing CCC’s Sapp. Using a multi-faceted approach ranging from pro-formation to a shotgun spread, CCC couldn’t consistently get anything going against a strong front eight. While the varying formations at times kept the Eagles off balance, Bronson was able to avoid most major mistakes and, more importantly, keep the Saints from any shot at staying competitive in the game.
Even against a dangerous passing team, the Eagles defense made several important plays. Three times in the second quarter alone, Jackson defended CCC receiver Jay Irvine one-on-one in man coverage, denying completions each time.
On special teams, senior Allen Brooks made two spectacular plays, tackling the Saints’ kick-return in an open-field situation following a kick off and later pinning a punt inside the CCC 10-yard line. Kyle McVey added the big hit on a second-half kick-off, leveling the Saints’ returner and creating one final massive roar from the sideline and crowd.
BHS picked up where it left off in the second half on offense as well, running at the Saints and taking its first possession after half time deep into CCC territory. Adding for the Eagles was the team’s most impressive pass of the night as quarterback Tyler Beauchamp lofted a pass into the corner of the endzone that Cates snared for a touchdown. Despite a missed extra point, the Eagles still extended the lead to 37-6 midway through the third quarter.
A desperation fourth-down quarterback draw by CCC inside its own 20-yard line ended with a sack, setting up an easy opportunity for the Eagles to extend the lead. But Bronson was stopped inches short of a first down on fourth-and-short and subsequently turned the ball over on downs.
On the next play, Sapp carried for 98-yards, racing past the Bronson defense and scoring a touchdown.
Perhaps the most impressive individual highlight of the game, the spectacular run was far too little, far too late.
Sapp finally connected with Irvine in the fourth quarter, completing a 40-yard pass into the Bronson red zone.
But the Eagles pressured Sapp into a wobbly throw Tyler Sistrunk picked off. Brandon Quinn also picked off a fourth-quarter pass later for the Eagles.
Freshmen Gary Mitchell and Brian Shepard spelled Cates, Bower and Jackson in the final quarter, helping to finish Bronson’s final scoring drive. Shepard’s touchdown and Jackson’s two-point conversion with just over two minutes left in the game mark put the final exclamation point on the commanding 42-12 win.