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Trenton High's football team made it count on homecoming with a monster 61-28 win over district foe Branford last Friday night.
The Tigers, 5-3 on the season and 3-1 in the district, have been quietly doing the hard work all season, playing to their strengths and adjusting to opponents. Friday's game was payoff.
The teams looked evenly matched in the early going, although Trenton struck first. Durrell Henry took a deep kickoff and hustled back, all the way up to the Buccaneers' 19-yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, Henry kept the ball right up the middle for a quick touchdown, and Brandon Mathis banged home the point after kick.
The Bucs answered quickly with a 65-yard, four-minute drive that had Branford running back Brian Barnes scooping up the lion's share of the yards. Down at the brink of the goal line, Barnes punched it in from one yard out and Tim Clark's point after kick was good for tie game.
Branford then recovered an onside kick, and scored again almost immediately when quarterback Bradley Bullock threw a 24-yard pass to Clark, setting up Clark's subsequent 19-yard carry to the end zone. Clark's kick was again good, and Branford led 14-7.
Recognizing trouble, the Tigers were not caught napping again. Cam Cross scooped up the onside attempt on the next kickoff, and two plays later, Mathis ran 37 yards down the right side for a touchdown, evening the score up with the point-after kick.
Kyle Feather broke up Bullock's fourth down attempt to hit to Adam Powell in the end zone at the start of the second quarter, but on the Bucs' next drive, they scored again to take the lead on another short run by Barnes.
The Tigers' real break came when C.J. Bowers intercepted a pass near midfield, giving Trenton great field position for their next try. A 32-yard pass to Mathis and a short keeper by Henry led to a 16-yard pass up the middle to Chase Beckham, who was waiting in the end zone.
With time racing at the end of the first half, Bowers had a big punt return, bringing the ball down to the Bucs' 5-yard line with 23 seconds left. Henry hit Cross in the left end zone for the score and Trenton took the 27-21 lead into the half.
The Tigers returned ready to dominate, as defensive lineman Michael Elliot recovered a Bucs' fumble inside the Branford 30, leading to a 15-yard touchdown run by Mathis.
The Bucs had one more score in them, as Clark had a 23-yard setup run and then Barnes picked up 45 yards for a touchdown.
Branford once again tried the onside kick, but Jeff Delong snared it for Trenton on the Tigers' 44. It only took four plays to get to Mathis' 28-yard TD run to make it 41-28, Trenton's first secure lead.
Trenton continued to reap the benefits of alert defense and heads-up play. Holding the Bucs off just over the Trenton 30, the Tigers forced Branford to turn the ball over on downs, starting out on their own 31. Bowers found a great block and sprang out for a 69-yard dash to the house.
Trenton cemented the score with a short dash by Henry for the two-point conversion.
The cascade continued, as Brett Rowland recovered a Bucs fumble to set up the first score of the fourth quarter. Henry passed to Colby Perryman, who was down at the 1, and Billy Owens, who did some of his finest work on defense Friday, plunged in for the touchdown.
Just for the icing, Henry pulled down an interception on the Bucs' 35 that allowed him to hit Cross in the end zone moments later for Trenton's final score and the 61-28 win.
Tigers' head coach Ed Janes was happy with the way Trenton played against a much-improved Branford team.
"Branford's a good ball club," he said. "We're real impressed with them."
He was delighted with his team's execution as they faced Branford's defense and adjusted.
"They loaded the box early and we threw the ball a little bit," he said. "They had nine guys in the box and just left the middle of the field open. If you give us open field, we can catch the pass."
Janes credited Henry's passing performance for making the offense work. "He did a good job finding the open receiver. If we had to pound the ball at them, they'd be tough to knock out."
The Tigers had one more reason to celebrate Friday night, though they wouldn't find out until later. District teams Hawthorne (4-5, 3-1) and Jefferson County(1-7, 1-3) also played Friday night in Monticello.
Trenton (5-3, 3-1) and Hawthorne have the same record in the district, but Trenton has already beaten Hawthorne. A Hawthorne win at JeffCo would make Trenton district runner-up; a loss would mean Trenton's visit to Monticello next week would be even more significant. "We'd have to go up there and beat them."