BRADFORD – The final preseason scrimmage for Mississinawa Valley and Bradford proved to be a hard fought, points-at-a-premium inner-county battle.
The Blackhawks won 15-9 in the exhibition, which featured three quarters of varsity play followed by a fourth quarter of junior varsity action.
One of the major goals for both teams was to come out of the game with no major injuries, but that was not to be. Bradford’s Bryson Canan broke into the clear on an early first quarter pass reception and took the ball to the goal line. As he was tackled, he was injured.
“Bryson Canan is lost for the season,” Bradford coach Dave McFeely said. “That’s a major loss for us.”
The Blackhawks stiffened and held the Railroaders out of the end zone and turned the ball over to their offense on their 4-yard line. Two plays later, a high snap into the end zone would allow Bradford to score a safety and take a 2-0 lead it would carry through halftime.
Each team would have a second quarter drive that would take them deep into enemy territory. Mississinawa Valley took advantage of a Roader fumble and marched to the Bradford 4-yard line. Two penalties later the Railroaders intercepted a pass to quell the Blackhawk threat.
Bradford took over the ball with 8:51 left in the half and nearly held it until the intermission. The Railroaders ran 16 plays. The Blackhawk defense rallied to stop them deep in their territory with 43.7 seconds until the break on a fourth down incomplete pass.
MV got the second half kickoff. At halftime the Blackhawk staff noticed a Bradford defensive tendency and thought it had a play that might exploit it. On the first play Nate Gladdish went around right end for a 77-yard touchdown run. The point after was blocked, but MV had the lead 6-2.
The Blackhawks were riding a wave a momentum. They forced a Roader three-and-out and took possession with 10:15 remaining in the third quarter. Mississinawa would run eight goal to goal plays in its next series but could not cross the goal line as the Bradford defense held strong.
When the Roaders took over the ball at the 4:30 mark, they were inside their own 1-yard line. They attempted a running play, but the Blackhawk defense was ready and tackled them in the end zone for a safety, enlarging the MV lead to 8-2.
Mississinawa was able to take the free kick and advance the ball to the Roader 21 before turning it over on downs, thus setting up the final 2:01 of the period.
Because the varsity squads were only playing three periods, this was going to be played as if it were the end of the game. Bradford would have the ball at its own 21 with a first down.
The Roaders mixed the run and the pass beautifully as they began their march downfield. Using the sidelines and their timeouts to stop the clock, Bradford had plenty of time to attempt its comeback.
Bradford made it to first and goal with under one minute remaining in the quarter.
“We had good clock management,” McFeely said. “Jake Barga caught a nice pass. Mason Justice got us inside the 1 … that was the first time we’ve run a play under center, when we ran that quarterback sneak, in two years. We just as easily could have fumbled it.”
Bradford didn’t fumble and scored the go-ahead touchdown and converted the extra point to lead 9-8 after three quarters.
“We couldn’t have done that last week,” Coach McFeely said. “That’s the best we’ve looked on the quick timing game.”
“Our kids played hard,” Mississinawa coach Mike Griffin said. “They didn’t give up when they could have a couple of times. They fought … we used four quarterbacks tonight. It was their last performance. Someone is going to win the job, going to earn the job.”
“Defensively, we played well,” McFeely said. “We gave up a couple of big plays, but we’ve got to be able to shut that stuff down. Same thing offensively, we’re young on the right side of our line … it’s a learning experience.”
“I’m really pleased where our kids are at and where they’ve come from,” Griffin said. “Going from defensive coordinator to head coach seeing that progression from one year to the next. Pretty exciting and I’m excited for the kids. Chance to greatly improve on what we did last year.”
Bradford opens the season Friday, hosting New Bremen. Mississinawa Valley begins the new year by entertaining rival Union City Friday evening.