By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Friday night felt like playoff football.
On the Brighton Football Stadium field were quality teams the Briarcrest Saints led by Major Wright and the host Brighton Cardinals headed by Will Wolfe.
And to add to the postseason atmosphere for the Week 9 contest, the weather was cold and crisp. Despite the bone-chilling temperatures, Brighton got off to a hot start taking a 23-0 lead over the Saints.
Briarcrest rallied with two big plays. But it wasn’t enough as the Cardinal won the showdown 26-13.
“I think we did well all four quarters,” Brighton quarterback Colton Hathcock said. “We just didn’t come out and play two quarters. I think we played all four pretty decently. We still have some things to improve on.”
The Cardinals (7-2, 2-0 District 13-3A) entered the Briarcrest game looking to improve after a 34-22 loss against Station Camp the previous Friday night. The Saints (4-5, 2-0 in Division II-2A West) traveled to Tipton County on a high after beating Christian Brothers 21-19.
Maybe Briarcrest was still on that emotional hight in the first quarter as Brighton jumped out 9-0. Cardinal running back Zach Ballard got the scoring started with a short touchdown run at the 9:10 mark of the first quarter to make the scoreboard read 6-0.
Later in the first quarter, Cardinal place kicker Austin Chapman drilled a 26-yard field goal.
The Brighton advantage grew to 16-0 in the second quarter when quarterback Colton Hathcock dropped back and hit receiver Kolton Childress in stride for a 42-yard touchdown pass.
“We were catching ball and getting up field with it,” Hathcock noted. “That was a good push.”
That score came at the slightly more than 3 minutes left in the first half. About a minute later the Cardinal defense got in the scoring act.
Brighton linebacker Blue Curry forced a fumble that his teammate Zach Camp scooped up and headed to the end zone making the tally 23-0.
With 2 minutes and 12 seconds left on the clock in the second half, Saints dual threat quarterback Ben Ellis had enough time to get his team on the scoreboard. On a quarterback keeper, Ellis exploded through the line of scrimmage and reached paydirt untouched for a 42-yard TD. The halftime score was 23-7.
Ellis went back on the attack in the third quarter using his arm. The junior signal caller dropped back and hit a wide open Kenneth Echols for a 48-yard touchdown. Briarcrest’s two-point conversion failed making the score 23-13.
Brighton Head Coach Will Wolfe called upon his defense to close out the game and neutralize Ellis. The Cardinal attack did just that with two interceptions from Nick Easley in the fourth quarter.
Brighton got sacks from Curry and Austin Kelly. Between those interceptions and sacks, Chapman nailed a 32-yard field goal to make the final score 26-13.
“We had an outstanding week of practice,” Camp said of the Brighton defense. “That’s where it all starts. We came out her and worked as a team all 11 of us. We got to the ball. When everybody is working together, it all works out in your favor.”
The sophomore linebacker said the Cardinals have to bring that same effort each play when the Dyer County Choctaws come to town this Friday.
“We just have to focus-up and do what we have to do,” Camp said. “Play 5 seconds, every play is 5 secons long.”
The Saints close out the regular season at home against MUS with both of those teams battling for first in their league at 7 p.m. Meanwhile the Cardinals have a championship on the line at Brighton Football Stadium with a 7 p.m. kickoff as well.
Dyer County enters the game with a 6-3 record and 1-1 in league play. It comes down to the winner of the Brighton/Dyer County game earning a No. 1 in the TSSAA Football playoffs.
Hathcock said the Brighton seniors will encourage the entire team throughout the week.
“Get them ready and focused, there won’t be any playing around,” Hathcock concluded. “We have to get ready to work.”