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By Mike Capshaw
Special to the Citizen
Bronson has a winning football team.
Let’s repeat that for emphasis.
Bronson has a winning football team.
The reason that statement is worthy of repeating is because it’s been a long — long — time since the Eagles have fielded a winner.
And they’ve never won like this, dominating their first four opponents to open the season 4-0 for the first time in school history, according to second-year coach Cameron Porch. They outscored opponents by a whopping 177-30 margin in those games.
“I expected us to be a pretty decent team this year,” said Porch, who piloted an injury-plagued Eagles squad to a 2-8 in his first season. “I didn’t have any expectations as far as record and things like that. I just expect good performances mentally and physically and they’ve achieved those.
“They have exceeded my expectations.”
The four wins are more than Bronson posted in the previous three seasons combined. It also matches the highest win total in a single season over the past decade as the Eagles were 4-6 in former coach Al Cooksey’s first season in 2008.
Bronson finally met its match this past Friday during a 42-12 loss at Cottondale, a talented team that improved to 4-1 with the victory. Porch said the Hornets stung his team with size and agility as several players appeared to be “guys with sub 4.5 and sub 4.6 speed.” Bronson’s fastest player is senior running back/safety Brock Brower, who runs the 40-yard dash in the 4.6 to 4.7-second range.
“They were light years ahead of us athletically,” Porch said. “Very athletic at the skill positions and very large at the line positions, so just a lot of matchup issues. And we did not help ourselves at all with a lot of mental errors. We got in the right spots (to make tackles) but just missed 13 tackles and they had guys that can make you pay when you miss those in the open field.”
Even though coaches and players scouted Cottondale on film, they were “kind of caught off guard” by the speed on the field. Speed is something that’s tough to gauge on a highlight reel and it’s even tougher to simulate with practice squad players.
Porch isn’t too concerned about the mistakes because, he said, they’re “all correctable.” In fact, the loss may be the best thing that could have happened to the Eagles with four of their final five games against 1A District 6 opponents, beginning at Bell at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
After facing Cottondale, Bronson won’t be caught off guard again by any team’s speed.
“This loss will actually make us better,” Porch said. “We’ll learn from it and bounce back.”
Bell is 3-2 after picking up a win last week without taking the field thanks to a forfeit by Oak Hall, which made the decision with player safety in mind as the few upperclassmen on the young squad were injured. The Bulldogs opened 2013 with wins against Cambridge Christian (52-40) and PK Yonge (40-15) before losing against Lafayette (31-12) and Trenton (56-6), which was a district game.
Bell senior Austin Ritchey leads the district with 768 yards and nine touchdowns on 99 carries. He was limited to just 65 yards on 20 carries against Trenton as the Tigers loaded the box to slow down the Bulldogsí running game. Bellís Justin Terry has rushed for 210 yards on 32 carries and John Oslager has 144 yards on 35 carries, so itís not just about stopping Ritchey.
ìItís going to be very similar to what we saw Friday night (at Cottondale), a very physical, downhill running game with good speed,î Porch said. ìThe Ritchey kid, he can really go. If he breaks one tackle, he could be gone and then thereís also Justin Terry and Oslager ó†all three are very good.
ìWe canít miss tackles like we did Friday night and weíve got to re-establish that in practice this week because weíre going to have our hands full.î
Hands full or not, Porch is confident his team will rebound. In yearís past, a loss like the Eagles endured Friday night would have been the norm ó just one of many during a long, losing season. Now, itís just a bump in the road that Bronsonís players are using as a learning experience and motivation to keep getting better ó†and keep winning.
Thanks to Porch and his staff, the Eaglesí players have a fresh mentality thatís much different than it was in the past. Theyíll take the field Friday night expecting to win, not lose. Itís a transformation that the entire community has noticed, too.
ìIn the third quarter of our last home game against Cedar Creek, I turned around and (the stands were) slammed-packed,î Porch said. ìThatís when it really hit home for me that everybody is starting to see the change.î
The change is a welcome sight for Eagles fans. For the first time in a long time, they can proudly proclaim: ìBronson has a winning football team.î
• Bronson freshman Montrez Jackson suffered a fractured leg and will miss the remainder of the season. Jackson started at running back and cornerback. Senior running back/linebacker/punter Allen Burks also has suffered a season-ending injury.
• Senior fullback Brad Cates is second leading rusher in the district with 596 yards and seven touchdowns on 70 carries. Senior running back Brock Brower is third in the district with 435 yards and six touchdowns on 55 carries. Brower also has five catches for 67 yards and four touchdowns.
• The Eagles donít pass much, but itís been effective when they do. Itís something coach Porch wants to continue building on during district play. Senior quarterback Tyler Beauchamp is 16 of 29 for 193 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions.