BRADFORD – Bradford unleashed a powerful ground attack led by junior Hunter Penkal’s 183 yards and four touchdowns to produce its best offensive output of the season, but a 50 second turnover-laden stretch would cost the Railroaders as they lost to Hillcrest 46-34 on Friday night.
“That team was athletic, “Bradford football coach Dave McFeely said. “They had too much quickness for us, and our grinding it out was too much for them. We grew up a lot tonight. We just have to keep growing.”
The Railroaders received the opening kickoff at their own 20 and showed their spirit and determination for the evening by going for it on fourth down at the 29. They converted and five plays later Penkal swept around left end on a 62-yard scamper to give Bradford the early 6-0 advantage with 8:38 left in the first quarter.
Following a defensive stand that forced the Rams to turn the ball over on downs, Bradford again went on a seven-play drive that covered 75 yards, culminating in another Penkal sweep around the left side for 45 yards to put the Railroaders up 12-0.
Hillcrest got the ball and needed just one pass to cover 55 yards for the score with 2:21 remaining in the period. That was the beginning of their 26-point surge in 4:20. The two-point conversion was good, making the score 12-8 with Bradford leading.
Bradford still was in control at this point. A four-play, 69-yard drive was highlighted by an 18-yard Mason Justice gain and then a third Penkal sweep, this time for 42 yards and a touchdown. Momentum was definitely wearing orange and black at this point as the Roaders led 18-8 with 1:05 to go until the second stanza.
“That play is the old Buck Sweep, old time football,” Coach McFeely said. “Got three nice touchdown out of that.”
It was the Bradford’s defense’s turn to get involved in the action. While holding the Rams on downs, the Railroaders in four plays had a quarterback pressure and two sacks. The defense gave the ball back to the offense with great field position at the Bradford 45.
Old Man Momentum can be very fickle at times. This game he suddenly changed sides to Hillcrest.
The Roaders ran a play to make it second down. On the next play the Rams stripped the ball from Bradford and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown. Hillcrest now trailed 18-14 with 10:51 remaining until halftime.
On the first offensive play for Bradford after the kickoff the Railroaders were stripped of the ball by the Rams, and this time it was returned 27 yards for a touchdown. Suddenly, Hillcrest now led 20-18 with 10:44 left until intermission.
On the ensuing Hillcrest kickoff the ball was bouncing on the ground and deflected off of a Bradford player and was recovered by the Rams on their 47. Three plays later Hillcrest found the end zone on a quarterback keeper of 47 yards to increase their lead to 26-18 with 10:01 before intermission. The Rams had just scored three touchdowns in 50 seconds.
After a Bradford possession that drove the ball deep into Ram territory and ended in a punt the Rams started at their own 20 and were held on downs at their own 27 by a stout Railroader defensive effort.
The Roaders mounted a six-play drive that concluded with a 5-yard Dillon Reck touchdown run. The two-point conversion was successful, thus tying the game at 26 with 2:53 remaining until the break.
Hillcrest took over at its own 48 after the kickoff and in three plays found pay dirt, this time through the air on a 41-yard connection. The Rams made the two-point conversion and once again had the lead at 34-26 with 1:50 to play before half.
The Bradford offense was held to just three plays and was forced to punt. Hillcrest took over at the Bradford 37 with 32 seconds remaining. Once again the Railroader defense rose to the challenge and held the Rams from scoring before the half.
The Rams took the second half kickoff and marched downfield in four plays and scored on a 20-yard aerial connection to push their lead to 40-26 with 10:18 remaining in the third period.
Bradford had a nice offensive series that ended with a punt but flipped field position, forcing Hillcrest to take over the ball at its own 11. On the Rams’ third play the Roaders’ Larkin Painter intercepted a pass to give Bradford the ball at the Ram 29-yard line.
Seven plays later Penkal once again found the promised land via the left side. The Roaders made the two-point conversion, drawing them to within six at 40-34.
Bradford defensively rose up and stopped the Rams on downs on the next two possessions. The Railroaders offensive drove to the Hillcrest 30 before fumbling and was stopped on downs at midfield with 2:13 remaining.
The Rams ran a quarterback draw on second down that went for a 40-yard score that really sealed the victory for Hillcrest with 1:57 left to go for a 46-34 advantage.
There was no quit in this Bradford squad. The Railroaders took possession at their 44 and drove to the Ram 1-yard line where the Hillcrest defense held on fourth and goal as time expired.
“Most points we’ve scored,” Coach McFeely said. “I would have liked to punched that last one in just to be respectable because the kids have worked so hard for it. First time we haven’t had to play with a running clock. We’re making strides.”
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