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Brighton weathers the storms and Churchill for a 23-7 victory

By: Ben Szilagy, September 4, 2015, 12:34 am

Brighton – Seniors will often be as calming as a steady rain in a season of transition.

Brighton’s seniors stepped up in a rain-soaked game and provided a calm, steady influence in the Bulldogs’ 23-7 victory over Livonia Churchill in a Kensington Lakes Activities Association crossover on Thursday.

“Playing in the rain can cause too many things to go wrong,” Brighton coach Brian Lemons said.

“I’m proud of our guys. We grew up tonight. We had a physical battle against Churchill who stood their ground, but our seniors helped us weather the rain and get a win.”

Lemons is in his first season at Brighton after being the head coach at Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard.

One of those seniors was running back Joe Clifford. Clifford had 23 carries for 231 yards and two touchdowns.

“He was outstanding,” Lemons said. “He was our workhorse.”

Clifford and the Bulldogs (2-0) wasted little time taking the lead. After a quick first down, Clifford burst through the line for a 55-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 with 10:27 left in the first quarter.

When the Charger offense sputtered on the ensuing drive, Brighton rode Clifford for another drive. On first and goal from the 6-yard line, Clifford bounced a run to the outside for his second touchdown and a 14-0 lead with 2:47 left in the quarter.

“It’s fun playing in the rain, but my offensive line made me look good. They allowed me to hit the hole, and get to the second level on a lot of my runs,” Clifford said.

While the offense looked good, the defense didn’t disappoint either.

On Churchill’s second drive, the Bulldogs stripped junior Evan Cummins. Senior linebacker Evan Willette quickly recovered the ball on the 17-yard line.

On the next play senior Grant Dunatchik found junior Nick Crocker on a fade rout for a 20-0 lead with 1:48 left in the first quarter.

Churchill (1-1) did find a spark in the second quarter through its defense when junior Jamal Allen returned an interception 50 yards for a touchdown with 6:56 left in the half.

“As a defense we’ve had eight shutout quarters. It’s unfortunate for them because I know when they looked at the scoreboard they feel that score was on them,” Lemons said.

Last season, the game conditions were similar. A thunderstorm halted play and Churchill used adjustments to beat Brighton.

According to Clifford, Brighton wasn’t going to let the game slip out of its hands.

“It was similar to last year,” he said. “Except we couldn’t let him comeback on us. Churchill is a very hardnosed team and can play with anybody. When you get up early on a team like this, especially under a new coach, it can help your program.”

Lemon agreed.

“Joe and Grant (Dunatchik) provide a calm for our young guys that is rare. They help on the sidelines manage emotions, and on the field the lead by example. They are really terrific players,” Lemons said.