BROOKVILLE — Walking off the field with a 69-60 season-opening victory over Bradford, Brookville Raiders head coach Scott Park could only shake his head.
As painful as it was to watch his defense trying to stop the Owls’ running game, which piled up 522 yards of yards with three 100-yard gainers, it really did come down to turning two of Bradford’s three turnovers into touchdowns.
And in a game where his defense was lit up, Park’s Raiders blanked the Owls in the final quarter as they pulled away with the win.
“Our defense last year was kind of that bend-but-don’t-break thing and we got the ball quite a bit and tonight we kind of picked up from there,” Park said. “Two interceptions and a fumble recovery, that’s three takeaways. That’s the positive. We just have to get a little more aggressive. We had some guys out tonight and younger guys were trying to get used to the speed of the game.
“We definitely have a lot of work to do, but I think the big thing was the adversity we had coming in to the game with the injuries and sickness and then being down 14. To come back like that is pleasing to me battling like that. They didn’t quit, believed in the system and what we were telling them and kept plugging away.”
The bigger challenge as it turned out was the Owls stopping the Raiders enough and if they weren’t going to be perfect offensively, they weren’t beating the Raiders, who did not commit a turnover.
Led by sophomore quarterback Jack Krug and senior receiver Cabe Park, the Raiders pulled away in the fourth quarter, actually blanking the Owls over final 12 minutes. Krug and Park were brilliant, sparking a passing game that saw Krug complete 30 of 50 passes for 555 yards and eight touchdowns. He also ran for 138 yards on 14 carries with a 37-yard TD run that put the Raiders up for good at 61-60 10 seconds into the fourth quarter.
“He’s very talented, there’s no doubt,” Coach Park said of Krug. “We just have to keep him in check a little bit and act like we’ve gotten to the end zone before. He’s very talented and does everything we ask him. He works with Coach Varischetti and studies the game and film.
“He’s the best QB I’ve ever worked with and I’ve worked with some pretty good ones. … But we have to keep him grounded and going. When we were struggling there, we relied on his feet to get us yards. That was an aspect we didn’t do last year. He’s very talented.”
Krug’s yards and TDs are school records — his own mark of 387 set last year against St. Marys and the TDs topping a 50-year-old record owned by Dick Bowley in a 1968 game against Moniteau — as well as Park’s 15 catches for 290 yards and five TDs. While the receiving TDs are a record, the team record still stands at six, owned by John Hilliard back in 1935.
Park’s TD catches were 11, 17 and 4 yards in the first half and 55 and 66 in the third quarter. The 66-yarder a highlight film play that saw him juke and make several Owls defenders miss on his heart-pounding way to the end zone.
“It was pretty cool making guys miss, but I was cramping at the end of the night in both legs and I was out of gas,” Park said.
“He’s so shifty,” Coach Park said. “I don’t know how he gets out of all of that stuff. He did it last year. You think you have him pinned down. I watch it on film and you can’t believe it sometime. He’s a player and we do have some talent. Coach Varischetti does a great job game-planning and taking what the defenses give us.”
Park shifted into the spot usually manned by senior Bryan Dworek, the Raiders’ all-state receiver who was out with an injury.
“I realized I had big shoes to fill because he was all-state last year and 85 catches,” Park said. “At first I was a little worried because the routes are a little different. I’m used to being on the left side instead of the right, but I adjusted pretty well.
“I’ll take Bryan back any day of the week, but it was kind of nice being in the spotlight.”
Krug, scarily a year older and faster and stronger, trusted whatever his receiving targets were, especially Park.
“I know what my receivers are capable of doing, not just Bryan. I trust Cabe, Ian (Thrush), Kyle (MacBeth) and Addison (Singleton), they did the job,” Krug said. “We were just clicking tonight and I have to give props to the line. They were really holding up for us, switching the blitz calls. It felt good.”
Krug connected with a 60-yard TD pass to Thrush, who finished with four catches for 108 yards, in the second quarter. He also tossed TD passes to running backs Tucker Wolfe and Brandan Eppley of 10 and 4 yards in the first half.
All of was needed as the Owls’ trio of backs — Donny Pattison, Derek Sunafrank and Jaron Ambrose — ran all over the Raiders. Pattison went for 204 yards on 14 carries and scored three touchdowns, two of them rushing. Sunafrank ran for 179 yards on 15 carries with two TDs and Ambrose scored two TDS.
The Owls led 20-6 after the first quarter, 26-13 and 32-20 in the second quarter but couldn’t shake the Raiders, who took a 40-38 halftime lead, their first of the game, on Krug’s 4-yarder to Park with 27.9 seconds left in the half.
Then the Raiders went up 47-38 when Krug hit Park on the 55-yarder on the first possession of the second half. But back came Bradford as well and the Owls broke a 54-54 tie on Pattison’s 48-yard TD run with 1:12 left in the third.
But that was it for the Owls, who were blanked the rest of the way.
Two huge turnovers cost the Owls dearly. Up 32-26 in the second quarter with the ball at the Raiders’ 30 on second-and-10, the Owls chose to pass and quarterback Nathan Clauser was hit by Wyatt Griffin as he threw an off-balance pass that was picked off by Robert Keth. Four plays later, the Raiders went up 33-32 on Krug’s 17-yarder to Park.
In the third quarter up 54-47, the Owls had the ball at the Raiders’ 35 on first-and-10, but Derek Sunafrank fumbled the ball away with Trenton Gilhousen recovering. Two plays later, Krug hit Park for their 66-yarder to tie the game.
Krug’s TD run gave the Raiders a 61-60 edge and then after stopping the Owls on downs at the Raiders’ 30 on the next possession, the Raiders scored on Eppley’s 9-yard run with 7:16 remaining. Wolfe’s two-point run set the final.