BRADFORD –Bradford football coach Nathan Hyatt and his staff have found it easy to remain positive as the Railroaders go through the growing pains of a year without varsity football.
And after a 31-8 loss to visiting Johnstown Northridge, who improved to 4-1 as a Bradford dropped to 1-4, Hyatt needed look no further than junior receiver Walker Branson as he walked past after the game.
“That guy is a much better football player than he was five weeks ago,” Hyatt said as Branson answered in agreement. “That is what it is about. That is all I can ask.”
And while he knows the Railroaders continue to get better as a football team, Hyatt knows they were closer Saturday night than the score indicates.
“I think so,” he said. “I think the game was closer than the score indicates.”
The first half is a clear indication of that.
Bradford had two one-play drives that ended in a fumble and interception – with the Vikings scoring touchdowns in both cases. The Railroaders also gave up 77 yards on consecutive running plays by Logan Garee, who would finish with 207 yards on 26 carries and four TDs.
A punt return also gave Northridge a short field as Sam Doran added a short touchdown run, and Tristan Foor converted one kick to make it 25-0 late in the first half.
Dialaquan Millhouse had a 38-yard kickoff return to set up Bradford at the Northridge 42 late in the first half.
An 11-yard run by Bryson Canan and 17-yard run by Andy Branson led to a first-and-goal at the one.
But after two runs for no gain, Bradford fumbled snaps on third and fourth down and was not able to get in.
“We had a lot of little mistakes,” Hyatt said. “We tried a little trickeration of the shotgun on third down and didn’t catch the snap. Then we fumbled the snap again on fourth down.”
And Hyatt saw positives in the second half.
Northridge’s only score came on a 6-yard run by Garee that made it 31-0 late in the third quarter.
“I thought our defense did a better job in the second half,” Hyatt said. “We were playing downhill. We weren’t doing that in the first half.”
And Bradford closed the game by going 79 yards on its final drive.
The Railroaders converted a second-and-26 with a 35-yard pass from Andy Branson to Tyler Gunter.
They hooked up for another 32-yard pass to the Vikings’ 5, and Canan ran it in on the next play. Mason Justice’s two-point PAT run made the final 31-8.
“We made an adjustment I should have made earlier,” Hyatt said. “Andy (Branson) and Tyler (Gunter) played pitch and catch and hooked up on a couple nice plays on the drive.”
Justice would finish with 44 yards rushing while Canan added 29.
Gunter caught four passes for 87 yards.
The Railroaders will host Cincinnati Dohn Community Friday, looking to continue to build on what they have done this season.
“We are going to get there,” Hyatt said. “We are getting better as a football team.”
And Saturday, he didn’t have to look far to see that.