Overtime rules are different in American Youth Football, the body with oversight of the Norcal conference. Teams get the ball on the 25 yard line and have four plays in which to score. First downs cannot extend the drive. It’s four plays and then the other team gets the ball. The Yellow Jackets got the ball first and immediately handicapped themselves with two false start penalties, which meant that they had to go 35 yards to score in four plays.
Novato went to their bread-and-butter back, Keith Bradshaw. He reeled off runs of 9, 10, and 8 yards to move the ball to the 8 yard line with one play remaining. Again Bradshaw carried the ball. As with his other carries, he shucked off tacklers as he drove for the end zone. It took four Broncos to haul him down, just inches short of the goal line.
The Broncos made the most of their opportunity. Moses Johnson and Arturangel Lara made the going difficult for the Broncos, but that actually tells two stories. The first is the extraordinary effort the two defenders exerted to stem the tide. The second is the telltale fact that their tackles were being made in the defensive secondary, after Bronco runners had bolted through the defensive line. A quarterback sneak from the 1 yard line on the fourth play ended the contest.
This was a hard-fought game with neither team ever leading by more than a touchdown. It was tied 8-8 at the end of the first quarter and the Yellow Jackets led 14-8 at halftime and 22-16 at the end of the third quarter.
The Yellow Jackets depended on their ground game. Bradshaw ran for all three touchdowns going 19, 35 and 25 yards for the scores. His effort was complemented by Brad Funke, who challenged the middle of the Broncos defense, and Ryan Burness.
The Broncos took the opening kickoff and were stymied by the Yellow Jacket defense. Funke, Johnson, Lara, John Hernandez Mira, Riley Wilmott, Justin Hemphill and Nicholas Nazarian stopped the Broncos, with Nazarian batting down a Bronco pass.
The Yellow Jackets took over on their 35 yard line after a punt. Bradshaw went 10 yards for a first down. Bradshaw, Burness and Funke all carried the ball, with Bradshaw getting the first down on a 17-yard run. Burness gained 9 yards and Bradshaw carried it in from the 19 yard line. Hernandez Mira kicked the extra point to make it 8-0.The Broncos came storming back, scoring in five plays. Nader Afrakhan saved a touchdown on their second play, stopping a breakaway runner at the 12 yard line. Three plays later Southern Marin went in from the 2 yard line despite the efforts of Johnson, Lara and Hemphill.
Nazarian returned the ensuing kickoff to the 35 yard line and the Yellow Jackets embarked on a 14-play drive that stalled on the Southern Marin 1 yard line. Bradshaw and Funke did the heavy lifting on the drive, but they were unable to push the ball in after achieving a first-and-goal at the 7 yard line.
Afrakhan ran down another Bronco breakaway runner and Burness, Johnson and Wilmott combined to force the Broncos to punt. Bradshaw ran the punt back 70 yards for a touchdown, but the TD was nullified by a penalty.
Undaunted, the Yellow Jackets went on to score anyway. Bradshaw carried for a first down, Funke tested the middle of the line and Bradshaw then went 35 yards to make it 14-8 with 2 minutes left in the half.
The Broncos had ideas of evening the score before halftime, taking to the air. But Johnson harassed the quarterback into two errant throws and the Yellow Jackets took possession. A promising drive ended when time expired in the half.
The Yellow Jackets were unable to move the ball after receiving the second half kickoff. They gambled on fourth down and came up short, turning the ball over to the Broncos at midfield. A 47-yard scoring pass tied the game and the Broncos kicked the extra point to take a 16-14 lead.
Hernandez Mira returned the kickoff to the Bronco 47 yard line. Bradshaw and Funke again shared running duties, with Bradshaw going over from 25 yards out. Hernandez Mira kicked the point to a make it 22-16.
The Broncos responded with a 64-yard drive that spanned the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth quarter. Donald Pressley joined Johnson, Lara, Hemphill and Hernandez Mira in making the going tough for the Broncos, but they scored on the 10th play of the drive. The try for the extra point went wide to leave the score at 22-22.
Bradshaw hauled the pigskin on the next series of downs, which died out at the Bronco 38 yard line. The Broncos had no better luck moving the ball as Hemphill became a major thorn in their side.
With time running out, the Yellow Jackets got one more possession from their own 30 yard line. Bradshaw carried 8 straight times, moving the ball inside the Broncos 20 yard line before being run out of bounds as time expired.
When Kehs got hurt, the Stingers couldn’t climb the mountain
It didn’t take that long, as the Stingers fell 40-7 after quarterback Maxwell Kehs was injured. Everytime a Stinger was slow getting up, you held your breath.
When Kehs was hurt late in the first half, the writing was on the wall. Until that time, the Stingers were holding their own, trailing 13-7 and moving the ball with authority. Kehs returned to play the second half, but it was all a struggle after the intermission.
The Broncos took the opening kickoff and drove for a touchdown, despite defensive resistance from Colton Carry and Tony Ramirez.
The Stingers came roaring back. Kehs hit Kevis Halphen for 6 yards. A 16-yard strike to Julius Pelletier moved the ball into Southern Marin territory. A short pass to Carry and a short gain by Carry set up a 32-yard dash by Halphen. Kehs went over for the touchdown and passed to Sebastian Delgado for the extra point to tie the game at 7-7.
The Broncos faced a fourth-and-short on their next possession after Pelletier, Joseph Hudson and Mario Corral each made a stop. But a sweep around end resulted in a 34-yard TD. Carry and Corral stopped the extra point try.
After the kickoff, Kehs found Hudson twice to move the ball into Bronco territory. Kehs, Halphen and Carry tried running plays, but the drive stopped there.
The Broncos had no better success as Hudson and Ramirez forced them to punt. Kehs immediately passed twice to Halphen for short gains and Carry’s run gave the Stingers a first down. Kehs injured his passing arm shortly thereafter. The Stingers were unable to sustain the drive and were forced to punt. On the second play, a Bronco runner went 53 yards for a touchdown to make it 19-7 at halftime.
Kehs returned in the second half and worked some more aerial magic after his arm loosened up, finding Delgado for two long gains and Carry on two shorter passes.
But the Broncos scored each time they gained possession in the second half as their depth wore down the defense.
This was a disappointing finale for the Stingers, but the team displayed tremendous growth in the last half of the season, and no score can diminish the luster of their improvement.
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