It was, at times, brutal. Other times, it was inspired.
But in the end, Bronson came out of their battle with Daytona Beach Father Lopez with a narrow 8-7 victory last Friday night.
The victory served as a revitalization for the Eagles, who now set their sights on a tough Bell program Friday.
It was also a complete turnaround from last season, when Father Lopez topped Bronson, 27-22, in another close matchup.
“This is what our kids needed,” Bronson coach Al Cooksey said following the win and a well-earned Gatorade shower. “They needed some confidence, bad.”
The Eagles got some confidence, but they fought hard for it. Eagles quarterback Ben Landon connected with Quintell Coleman for a 30-yard score early in the third quarter.
Cooksey said the play was a designed keeper for Landon, who swept out to the right to find Coleman open downfield. The duo connected again for the 2-point conversion, capping the Eagles only score of the night.
Landon finished the game 6-for-11 passing for 66 yards with his TD and an interception.
Coleman had three catches for 42 yards.
But it was a team effort from the start for Bronson. The Eagles surprised Father Lopez early with an onside kick to open the game. Bronson recovered to start on the Green Wave’s 41 yard line, but a bad snap forced them back to their own 36. The Eagles were forced to punt, but another botched snap led to Father Lopez taking over on the Bronson 17.
The Eagles’ defense stepped up, however, eventually forcing a 4th-and-goal on the goal line for the Green Wave. Alex Fedorovich soon ran in for a short touchdown and a Father Lopez lead with 7 minutes, 49 seconds to go in the first.
Bronson lit up the crowd in the next possession, with Coleman returning the ensuing kickoff all the way to the Eagles 49. But Father Lopez recovered a fumble and soon threatened to pad the lead.
A 54-yard touchdown run by the Green Wave was called back with a holding call early in the second, but the Green Wave advanced again down to Bronson’s 1 yardline as the possession ate the time away.
Again, the Eagles’ goalline defense showed its mettle, keeping Father Lopez out of the endzone. The defense held on another 4th and goal, and Bronson soon took over on its own 1 yard line and closed out the half with the game within reach.
“It’s the best defense we’ve played as a team,” Cooksey said of the Eagles’ performance.
Eagles newcomer Quinton Bell stormed Father Lopez in the third, returning the opening kickoff from Bronson’s own 20 to the Green Wave’s 14. Bell finished the game with eight rushes for 29 yards, and Cooksey said he’ll be a key part of Bronson’s future.
“He gives us another dimension,” Cooksey said of Bell. “He’s just an all-around good athlete.”
The Green Wave regained control after a turnover-on-downs, and again threatened to score.
But Bronson’s Hayden Bedford came up with a big interception to give the ball back to the Eagles. Bronson then opened up the field and nabbed its touchdown and two-point conversion for the 8-7 lead.
Father Lopez again had plenty of chances to regain the lead in the fourth, but the squad just couldn’t pull through. The Eagles recovered a Green Wave fumble 2:23 remaining in the game, and Brock Brower took the first run of that drive 36 yards to keep Bronson ahead. Brower led Bronson with 84 yards off four carries. Erik Hatch led Father Lope with 177 rushing yards.
Again, the Green Wave regained control, and pushed to try and get themselves in field goal range as the seconds ticked off the clock.
But it was Landon, on defense, who put the game away, intercepting a Father Lopez pass with 12.2 seconds to go. Bronson’s sideline celebrated, and the Eagles found themselves with an early victory.
Up next is Bell, who lost to Trenton, 47-6 last Friday. Cooksey knows the Bulldogs play tough. But for now, he’ll take the victory.
“I’m happy, that’s all I’ve gotta say,” he said.