Brandon sticks with its ground attack, defeats Holly 27-23 with a late TD to clinch playoff spot
Holly – Three times Ortonville Brandon trailed Holly and each time the Blackhawks came back to either take the lead or tie the game.
But that wasn’t enough. With 7:14 left Holly took back the lead again, 23-20, on Jacob Honstetter’s 3-yard touchdown run.
There was no panic on the part of Brandon or its coach, Tim Pizzala. Brandon stayed with its wing-T offense and pieced together a slick, 11-play drive, all on the ground, and chewed up 73 yards the final four on Amarae Kittles’ end run to give Brandon a 27-23 lead with 1:59 remaining.
Holly, also a run-oriented team, went to the pass in an attempt to win it but the Bronchos couldn’t get past Brandon’s 40-yard line and the Blackhawks held on for the victory to clinch its first playoff spot since 2011.
“We worked on (running the ball) all week,” Brandon coach Tim Pizzala said. “We didn’t panic. We knew what we could do. We got some big runs. I think they started to get worn down.”
Holly was also looking to clinch a playoff spot and slipped to 5-4. The Bronchos could make the playoffs as an additional qualifier.
Each team scored on their first possession and the score was tied at 7-7 midway through the quarter.
Holly went 63 yards in nine plays with Javon Barr running around left end for a 4-yard touchdown. Barr broke a tackle at the seven then sprinted to the corner.
Kevin Bickett’s 47-yard touchdown run tied the game for Brandon. The Blackhawks took just three plays to go 67 yards.
Twice Brandon converted on fourth down on its second drive but one fourth-and-6 from Holly’s 4—yard line quarterback Dawson Nichols’ pass was incomplete.
Holly went 13 plays to take a 10-7 lead. Junior Amy Scruggs kicked a 24-yard field with 1:13 to give the Bronchos that lead.
Holly ran 26 plays, all on the ground, and gained 144 yards. Barr had 54 yards on six carries.
For Brandon Bickett had 55 yards on three carries. Nichols was 0-2 passing and the Blackhawks had 121 rushing yards on 19 attempts.
As was the case to start the game, each team scored on their opening drive of the second half.
Bickett went 65 yards for a touchdown to give Brandon a 13-10 lead. Barr blocked the conversion.
Barr’s 6-yard run and fourth-and-1 from Holly’s 29 and Paris Partee’s 40-yard run helped to set up Garrett Stapleton’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Adam Tooley. Scruggs’ conversion gave Holly a 17-13 lead with 5:32 left in the third.
Brandon answered on the next series as twice the Blackhawks converted on fourth down, the second came on a fourth-and-4 from Holly’s 15. Nichols threw a 14-yard pass to Bryce Chamberlain and on the next play Collin McMillan ran it in for a 20-17 lead with 11:57 remaining.
Barr led Holly with 93 yards rushing on 12 carries.
For Brandon Bickett, a slot receiver, had 128 yards on five carries and Kevin Barnes had 13 carries for 56 yards.
Brandon will find out its opponent in the playoffs on Sunday when the official pairings are released.
“We’re capable of winning with the spread,” Pizzala said. “We’re confident with both.”
Brandon won its final three games to qualify for just the second time in the last 15 years.