It wasn’t pretty. Rivalry games often aren’t. But after a shaky start the Wildcats got what they wanted, a 20-12 win over the Bradford Tornadoes on November 9.
Bradford brought the house to Macclenny’s Memorial Stadium and for long periods of time the Wildcats looked listless. But some turnovers at key moments and strong defensive play up front paved the way for the Cats to finish the season with an 8-2 record.
This Friday, the Wildcats host the Creekside Knights (4-6) in the opening round of the playoffs at 7:30 pm. District runner-up Bishop Kenny travels to Ponte Vedra and provided that they come out on top versus the Knights, BCHS will face the winner of that game.
It is the first playoff game since 2009 and if the Wildcats were looking ahead a bit it is understandable. But for the Tornadoes, who with district losses to South Sumter and Mt. Dora were knocked out of post-season play, this was their playoff game.
The Tornadoes came out fired up. For much of the first half they seemed to want the game more and it showed on the field. The Wildcats struggled as the Tornadoes’ sophomore quarterback Jacob Luke moved the ball around.
The Tornadoes got on the board first at the end of the first quarter, capitalizing on a fumble in Wildcat territory. Luke found Marco Grimsby at the Wildcat 10 and big running back Lyndall Hampton ran it in from the 1-yard line. The PAT was no good but the visitors held a 6-0 lead at the start of the second period.The Wildcats came back with a big play that was the highlight of the game. Falon Lee exploded with a 69-yard touchdown run. He broke containment, got a good block from Mike Boone and outraced the Tornado defenders for the score. Jacob Carter converted on the PAT to put the Wildcats ahead to stay.
They added to the lead on the next series. Jacob Luke threw a pass to the sidelines that BCHS’s Jared Crews nearly intercepted. Then on the very next play Luke tempted fate with the same play. Crews stepped in front of the pass for the pick.
The Wildcats got the ball at the Bradford 18 yard line. A personal foul put them inside the ten and from there quarterback Corey Lawler ran it in for the score.
The PAT was no good and the Cats went into the half up 13-6.
Both teams bounced back and forth in the third quarter but neither team put together a scoring drive. The Cats benefited from interceptions by Brody Crews and Rashodd Hadley and from constant pressure on Bradford’s quarterback.
The final Wildcat drive was set up by Natavian Griffin’s and CeCe Jefferson’s sack, which halted Bradford’s effort. Falon Lee ran every play on the drive and finally pushed the ball into the end zone from three yards out. Carter added the PAT for a 20-6 lead.
Bradford narrowed the gap late in the second half when a pass from Luke to Grimsby gave them the ball on the 1-yard line. Hampton bulled it across for the score but the conversion was no good.
The win continues the recent BCHS dominance over their traditional rivals. For years Bradford had the edge but recently it has been all Baker. The lack of parity has taken some of the luster off the old contest, but it’s still very exciting when the two teams square off.