BRADFORD – Bradford made some mistakes but overcame them Friday night as the Railroaders beat Dayton Jefferson 24-20 to improve to 3-4 on the season.
“You know what I’m really proud about is we had a lot of adversity tonight – we self-inflicted a lot of adversity on ourselves – and they overcame that tonight,” Bradford football coach Nathan Hyatt said. “And, gosh, that was great to see. It was just awesome to watch.”
The Bradford offense had three turnovers and the Railroaders’ special teams units gave up two big plays to Jefferson that led directly to 12 points. But the Bradford defense played well and other than one 55-yard pass held Jefferson in check most of the night.
“One score is all they gave up,” Hyatt said of his defense. “They played great. We’ve been playing great defense lately, and I love that. I love playing great defense. That is at the end of the day what carries you. You’re going to have nights offensively where you don’t play well. You’ve got to be able to play defense and special teams.”
The special teams issues started right away for Bradford as Jefferson returned the opening kickoff to the Railroaders’ 1-yard line. One play later AJ Boyd scored on a quarterback keeper, and Jefferson led 6-0 just 13 seconds into the game.
The ugly start continued for Bradford as the Railroaders threw an interception on their first offensive possession of the game. But T.J. Jones bailed out the Railroaders as two plays later he stripped the ball from a Jefferson ball carrier to regain possession for Bradford.
Starting near midfield, Bradford couldn’t capitalize on the good field position and punted after gaining no ground.
The Railroader defense came up big again and forced three consecutive incompletions. Then on fourth down Jefferson had a bad snap on a punt that went through the end zone for a safety, getting Bradford on the scoreboard and making it a 6-2 game.
After the teams traded punts, Bradford finally got its offense going. The Railroaders went 77 yards on eight plays with Mason Justice running for a 17-yard touchdown as the first quarter clock ticked down to 0:00, putting Bradford up 8-6.
Bradford’s one defensive lapse came early in the second quarter as Jefferson scored on a third-and-6 play with Boyd connecting with Jalen Mack for a 55-yard touchdown pass. With a two-point conversion pass to Mack, Jefferson led 14-8.
The Railroaders quickly responded, though, and tied the game with another 77-yard drive. This possession only took four plays as a 63-yard pass from Andy Branson to Tyler Gunter set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Bryson Canan to tie the game at 14-14.
Moments later after stopping a fake punt by Jefferson, Bradford took over in Bronco territory. The Railroaders took advantage of the great field position and scored with Walker Branson catching an 8-yard touchdown pass from Andy Branson to cap off a three-play, 35-yard drive. With Justice running for a two-point conversion, Bradford led 22-14 with 3:21 left the first half.
It remained a 22-14 game until there were four minutes left in the third quarter when Mack returned a Bradford punt 60 yards for a touchdown.
The Broncos scored on a two-point conversion to tie the game, but it was called back due to an illegal formation. The Railroaders took advantage of the Bronco mistake and stopped the second attempt at the PAT, preserving their 22-20 lead.
Early in the fourth quarter Bradford’s lead increased to four points as Jefferson again had a snap go over the punter’s head for a safety, making it a 24-20 Bradford lead.
Bradford’s then defense then came up with two big stops in the fourth quarter to hold on for the victory.
“From the score-wise we gave up three big plays that we have to get fixed and I know we can get fixed,” Hyatt said. “We’ve got to get better offensively still. We’re leaving some plays on the field. And we’ve got to stop giving up those big plays. When we do that, we’re going to be a pretty solid football team.”
Unofficially Bradford had 326 total yards on offense with 215 rushing yards and 111 passing yards.
Justice ran 15 times for 151 yards and a touchdown while Canan ran 15 times for 75 yards and a touchdown.
“They run hard,” Hyatt said of his two running backs. “Here’s the exciting part: they’re both juniors, and they’ve got a lot that they can get better at. To me that is the really exciting part of those two guys. And I know they will get better. They’re getting better every day, and they work hard. And I’ll tell you what, those two kids are about as much fun as you can be around. They’re awesome kids.”
Jefferson had 145 total yards with 30 rushing yards and 115 passing yards.
Bradford improved to 3-4 with the win while Jefferson fell to 2-5.
Bradford will travel down toward the Ohio River on Friday to take on Manchester. The Greyhounds, who play in Division VII like Bradford, are 1-6 on the season and in the midst of a six-game losing streak.