By Pat Turner
Brandeis and Jay are in must-win situations going into the homestretch of District 28-6A football.
However, the Broncos and Mustangs are handling the pressurized situation. Brandeis improved its playoff situation with a 41-19 thumping of Warren this past Friday. A day later, Jay (5-3, 3-3) kept its hopes alive by cruising to a 53-20 victory over Taft.
League-leader O’Connor (8-0, 7-0), which remained perfect with a 42-14 win over Clark (2-6, 2-5), is close to defending its district crown. The Panthers can wrap things up Saturday with a victory over Brennan (6-2, 6-1). The Bears, coming off a 33-17 victory over Stevens (3-5, 2-5), are also in the title chase and would like nothing better than to knock off the Panthers.
Despite the loss to Brandeis (6-2, 5-2), Warren (6-2, 5-2) is still in the hunt.
The final two games of the regular season are critical.
A big test comes Saturday when the Broncos and Mustangs meet.
It’s a similar situation as last year when Jay topped Brandeis 58-57 to advance to the post-season. Warren can help its cause with a win over Marshall.
A loss to O’Connor placed Brandeis’ playoff hopes in serious jeopardy. Much to coach David Branscom’s satisfaction, the Broncos have moved forward with two straight wins, the most impressive coming against Warren
“I can’t say enough about our kids,” Branscom said. “I’ve never been around a group like this. We gone through perseverance. They’ve had disappointments, but they have come back, because they love each other and are willing to work. That makes it easier to coach.”
Frank Wilson IV gave the Broncos a major jumpstart in the first quarter by picking off passes on Warren’s first two possessions.
That led to Brandeis building a 14-0 lead on Jordan Battles’ 2-yard run and 17-yard toss to J Nova Rangel.
“It was huge for our team,” Wilson said. “I was trying to do anything I could to help our team. Throughout the week our coaches prepared us perfectly to be in a position to make plays. We just stay together as a team and make plays.”
Warren avoided a potential disaster later in the quarter when Rangel fell on a fumble from a mishandled punt.
This time, the Warriors’ defense prevailed with stops from Eli Huron, Tra’Vanta Simien, Caleb Williams and Darionte Mercer.
A gift from Brandeis fell Warren’s way in the second quarter when Williams fell on a fumble at the Warrior 40.
Anthony Cisneros then took Warren on a 13-play, 60-yard drive with his running and passing. The capper came when the Warriors’ quarterback sent a toss in Eric Rascoe’s vicinity. Rascoe made a leaping grab but lost the ball in flight. However, the receiver snagged the ball on his way down to cut the deficit to 14-7.
Brandeis padded its lead later in the half when Battles’ 49-yard pass to Oscar Cardenas set up a 23-yard field goal.
Warren got a huge boost at the beginning of the third quarter when Davare Harrison brought the Warriors within 17-13 on a fumble touchdown return. However, the Broncos recovered quickly with Rangel’s 1-yard touchdown run and Lopez’s 20-yard field goal to up their lead to 27-13.
From that point, Brandeis maintained control. The Broncos struck for a touchdown on Battles’ 20-yard pass to Cardenas. Although Warren countered with Christian Allen’s 60-yard TD toss to Ryan Anderson, Rangel responded with a 70-yard scoring sprint.
Jay used interceptions from Kenny Vigil, Andri Mobley, Sanford Jones and James Vigil, along with the offensive spark of quarterback Jacob Zeno to earn its victory.
Zeno connected on 14 of 20 passes for 312 yards and two touchdowns.
Much of the explosions occurred in the first half as Jay sprang to a 46-15 halftime lead.
“Our kids came out and played well,” Jay coach Gary Gutierrez said. “We talked about peaking and getting better every week. It showed. I’m proud of the way our kids played offensively and defensively. We’re going to enjoy this one and get ready for next week.”
Zeno started with a 39-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Choate on Jay’s first possession.
Later in the quarter, the Mustangs put together their most impressive scoring drive. After a Taft punt put Jay at its 3-yard line, Zeno guided a 97-yard, 11-play march with his passing before plunging over from the 1 on fourth-and goal.
Jay then added its second of four two-point conversions for a 16-0 lead.
Taft put together a productive drive of its own, motoring 75 yards in seven plays before Divonne Tilden scored on a 32-yard touchdown gallop.
Jay quickly added the backbreaker when Jaylin Hastings found an opening at midfield and burst through for a 50-yard touchdown run.
Interceptions by Mobley and James Vigil set up Jay’s next two touchdowns
Jay added another touchdown in the second half.
O’Connor 42, Clark 14
The Panthers broke open a tight contest with 28 second-half points to break away from the Cougars.
Tied 14-14 after letting a 14-0 lead slip away following Clark’s Benjamin Hooper’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Kenneth Bivins Jr. and 4-yard TD run, O’Connor got the advantage quickly in the second half.
Clark tried to surprise the Cougars with an onside kick, but the Panthers recovered. Special teams befitted O’Connor later on the possession.
After Clark’s defense stopped O’Connor, the Panthers were set to punt. However, the snap went to Jordan Maye, who sprinted 14 yards to keep the drive going.
O’Connor faced another fourth-down but Zion Taylor, who rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns, came through with a 3-yard run. He then capped the drive on a 1-yard plunge for a 21-14 lead.
Later in the quarter, quarterback David Dodd found Chase Locke for a 35-yard touchdown run and 28-14 lead.
O’Connor followed with two more touchdowns in the fourth period when Maye, who scored on a 3-yard run in the first quarter, added TDs of 2 yards.
Brennan 33, Stevens 17
Like O’Connor, Brennan needed second-half heroics to put a clamp on its victory.
The Falcons gained a 7-0 lead on Michael Pena’s 38-yard field goal, but Brennan bounced back quickly.
Jordan Flores, who completed 11 of 13 passes for 137 yards, tossed a 7-yard TD pass to Gabriel Ramos. Darryon Tolefree padded the Bears’ lead to 13-3 with an 82-yard touchdown run.
Stevens closed the deficit to 13-10 on Clarence Lee’s 1-yard dive, but Brennan stretched its lead to 19-10 on Jonathan Swisher’s field goals of 21 and 33 yards.
Flores gave the Bears more breathing room in the third period with a 1-yard touchdown run and 11-yard TD pass to Brandon Wyatt.
Greg Zamora added Stevens’ final touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Holmes and Marshall are out of the playoff picture, but the two teams played like everything was on the line in their Thursday battle.
Holmes pulled out its first win of the year with fourth-quarter heroics and another solid offensive output from DQ Haney, who rushed for 218 yards and four touchdowns.
Marshall had its offensive pop as well with Bernard Dankyl providing the spark while romping for 115 yards and three touchdowns to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark.
The offensive show began quickly with back-and-forth big plays.
Haney gave the Huskies (1-7, 1-6) an early 7-0 lead with a 20-yard scoring sprint. Dankyl delivered the Rams (2-6, 1-6) the tying touchdown minutes later with a 32-yard run. He struck again from13 yards for a 13-7 Marshall advantage.
After Haney’s 17-yard run put Holmes in front, 14-13, Dankyl followed his blocks for a 15-yard run and a 19-14 lead.
Haney helped the Huskies finish the first half on a high note with a 6-yard scamper in the final 19 seconds for a 21-19 lead. The running back got Holmes rocking at the beginning of the third quarter with a 57-yard touchdown run for a 27-19 lead.
However, Marshall came charging back, gaining a 33-27 lead with quarterback Matt LeJarza’s 10-yard toss to Dylan Poore and a 35-yarder to Dylan Cooper. LeJarza and Poore also hooked up for a two-point conversion.
Holmes had enough firepower to pull out the victory. John Bustos got into the scoring act by bruising his way to end zone from 5 yards out and Adair Nunez gave the Huskies a little of a cushion with a 27-yard field goal in the final two minutes.
Harlan 42, Southwest Legacy 14
Harlan rebounded from last week’s 7-3 loss to Eagle Pass Winn to stay in the District 14-5A Division title picture.
Harlan (6-2, 3-1) has a chance to move back into a share of first place this week in a contest against league-leader Southwest.
Offensive production was lacking against Winn, but that was not the case this time.
However, it took a while to get the ball rolling.
Legacy stunned Harlan with an early 7-0 lead and maintained the advantage the rest of the period.
That all changed in the second quarter as Harlan went on a 21-point tear.
Hawks quarterback Kannon Williams zipped a 61-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Logan.
Minutes later, Jacob Garcia stepped in front of a Legacy pass and galloped 51 yards to the end zone, putting Harlan in front 14-7.
Williams finished the half with a 10-yard pass to Shomari Anderson for a 21-7 lead and helped the Hawks begin the second half on a positive note.
He hurled an 11-yard TD pass to Robert Lopez and scored on a 9-yard run.
Aubrey McDade added a 9-yard touchdown run to close out Harlan’s scoring.
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