Clifford scores two TDs, Brighton’s defense shuts down Howell, wins 14-11
Brighton — Brighton coach Brian Lemons is building his version of a storied program. He knew the task at hand when he replaced Cliff Kiefer, and he knew where the community expects the bar to be.
Brighton faced adversity this week as sophomore quarterback Cam Tullar made his first start. He replaced Grant Dunatchik who suffered an injury last week and the Bulldogs were determined not to allow that to muddle their season.
The stakes were high for the Bulldogs. Brighton, Howell and Hartland entered this weekend tied for first at 3-1 in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association West Division title.
After being without the Little Brown Jug for a season, the Bulldogs reclaimed the rivalry trophy in a 14-11 victory on Friday at Brighton.
With the victory Brighton (6-1) clinched a playoff spot and a tie for the division title. Hartland won on Friday to tie the Bulldogs for the title.
“Games like this builds the character that we need to continue moving forward,” Lemons said.
“I’m impressed with our boys. We came into the game without a few players, and we had to persevere. Being humble goes a long way. The tradition that Brighton has, we’re capable of playing the way we did tonight every year.
“I’m proud to be coaching here and proud to coach these kids. Tonight we proved anything is possible.”
Running back Joey Clifford led Brighton by rushing for 122 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries.
“It was important to us seniors. To bring back the brown jug means a lot to us,” Clifford said.
Clifford who ran off tackle and down the left sideline for a 34-yard touchdown with 7:22 left in the first quarter.
Howell (5-2, 3-2) pulled to within 7-3 on Greg Kearns’ 25-yard field goal with 3:12 left in the first quarter.
Brighton senior Jerad Dokey intercepted a Brett Chaperon pass near the goal line and return it to the Brighton 28 yard line.
“We had to step up,” Dokey said. “Howell has a very explosive offense and they can create big plays. We needed to make sure there wasn’t any momentum at all.”
The defensive stalemate pushed past halftime and into the third quarter where both defenses forced three-and-outs. The Bulldogs looked to give their offense good field position near the end of the third quarter when the stalemate gave way.
The Bulldogs missed an opportunity to increase its lead but missed a field goal.
Clifford scored what proved to be the winning touchdown when he ran three yards for a score to give Brighton a 14-3 lead with 9:18 to play.
“I love banging against Howell,” Clifford said. “They come to fight. I wanted to make sure our defense was rewarded. When we had a chance to score we needed to take it.”
Howell’s defense late in the fourth quarter forced a turnover when Alfred Moll recovered a fumble with 3:40 left and returned it 29-yards into Bulldog territory.
Chaperone capped off the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run to cut into Brighton’s lead, 14-9. Howell made the conversion to pull with 14-11.
“My heart was racing, I’m not going to lie,” Lemons said. “I knew there was going to be an onside kick and I believed in our defense. They played big all night.”
The defense wrapped up the game on with a 15-yard sack and an interception by Trevor Hopman with 22 seconds left.