Bradford’s Willie Pollard rushes for a landing on Palatka
Bradford operating again Willie Pollard scores from 15 yards in opposition to Palatka.
Ainslie Lee, The Gainesville Sun
PALATKA — After a virtually three-hour battle riddled with stoppages, Bradford saved his unbeaten football season intact whereas capturing his first district crown since 2016 with a 35-14 win over Bennett-Cooper Field’s Palatka at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
While the Tornados entered Friday night time’s contest with a report 8-0, the Panthers additionally entered the matchup with a formidable 7-1 report after shedding 27-15 to Fernandina Beach the week earlier than.
But because the story has been all season, Bradford’s protection was far too sturdy for Palatka to beat.
Here are takeaways from the Tornado’s district title win.
Bradford is available in, groggy
With most groups doing this late within the season, the Tornados have handled their fair proportion of accidents.
“We were down six or seven starters… something like that when we came in,” stated Bradford’s first-year head coach Jamie Rodgers. “And then you saw a few more going off.”
The Tornados have been lacking just a few key elements – significantly on the offensive facet.
Bradford senior operating again and Cincinnati Football Commitment Manny Covey suffered a fractured ankle in opposition to Dunnellon final week and took the Tornados’ main rusher for the rest of the season.
Meanwhile, junior quarterback Dae’jon Shanks was additionally unavailable in opposition to Palatka, as was senior defensive deal with Dejon McBride and senior athlete Jarrin Alexander.
“We’re really devastated,” Rodgers stated. “We hope to bring them back before the playoffs are here.”
Willie Pollard good instance of ‘Next Man Up’
With so many gamers, there have been many Bradford gamers who’ve seen an enormous leap in enjoying time.
And junior operating again Willie Pollard actually was one. Pollard, who is usually trailing at No. 2, has taken the beginning spot in Covey’s absence.
“Willie Pollard is the running back without Manny Covey in a lot of places,” Rodgers stated. “Now he owns the show … Willie is a home run guy every time he touches it.”
Pollard carried the football 29 instances, rushed for 219 yards and hit the top zone 3 times.
Pollard’s first outcome got here early because the Tornados accomplished their first drive with a five-yard landing rush. He later added a 15-yard landing rush within the second quarter adopted by a 3-yard scoring leap with eight minutes to play.
Second quarterback Jeremiah McKenzie, who began beneath middle in Shanks’ absence, additionally bolstered.
McKenzie completed the night time 5-for-8 for 73 yards, together with a 15-yard landing move to Junior Chason Clark. McKenzie additionally added a 2-yard dashing landing within the third quarter that gave Bradford a 27-7 benefit.
Tornado protection is just not invincible, however superb
At the beginning of Friday’s sport, the story of the season had been Bradford’s protection, which had given up seven factors. The tornadoes had pitched seven shutouts.
Before he noticed the Panthers, Quincy Munroe was the one crew to attain factors in opposition to Bradford – and that was on September 23.
Needless to say, the shock was nice on the Tornados sideline when senior Ty’Ran Bush took a handoff for a 3-yard rating and accomplished a drive from Palatka, aided by Bradford penalties.
On third and third from the Bradford 10 yard line, Rodgers was hit with a penalty for jawing with an umpire, giving Palatka a brand new set of downs on the 3 yard line the place Bush and the Panthers wanted a play to attain a objective.
“One of them, I kind of ate him up with the penalty,” Rodgers stated of Palatka’s pair of touchdowns. “It’s my fault and I apologized to (the team) at half-time.”
The second Palatka rating got here late within the sport, with simply 37 seconds to play, when senior quarterback Jamarrie McKinnon discovered junior Trenton Williams on a 10-yard scoring connection.
“We had a bunch of young kids playing against a bunch of starters,” Rodgers stated. “I want her on fire. You never know when it’s the next man’s turn. … Everything was fine tonight. I agree.”
Bradford has shopped. What now?
Bradford introduced Rodgers’ hiring on December 8, 2021.
Since that day, the Tornados, who completed 6-6 final season, have participated in Rodgers’ tradition change.
“First of all, these guys are talented. They’re really good football players,” Rodgers stated. “Their buy-in, right in January when I got there, these guys hit the ground running.”
Rodgers says even those that have been a part of Bradford’s championship-winning basketball crew final 12 months instantly started coaching with the football crew.
“We had 65 guys for all 28 workouts over the summer,” Rodgers stated. “That’s what it takes. And they benefit from it.”
The Tornadoes, who are the 10th best team in the FHSAA state rankings, have an opportunity to end their regular season undefeated when they visit Suwannee (6-3) in Live Oak at 7:30 p.m. Friday night.
After that, Bradford will turn its attention to the Class 2S playoffs, where it will host at least the first round thanks to the Tornados’ district title win against Palatka.