Brookville coach Jon Meeks walked slowly up the sideline at Williams Stadium, away from the fourth-down play his team was about to run Friday night as it took on Liberty Christian.
Down just one score late in the fourth quarter, his team had to punt for the sixth time. Ahead of the play, Meeks took an extra few seconds to consider his options. But with the Bees pinned deep in their own territory, Meeks knew he had to send the special teams unit onto the field.
Meeks hung his head briefly, disappointment spread across his face.
His banged-up squad had just put together its best defensive stand of the night, coming up with a big fourth-down stop after LCA had gained 36 yards on the drive. The home Bulldogs, who played rather sloppy for coach Frank Rocco’s liking, turned it over on downs and gave Brookville a quality chance at a comeback with 4:33 left in the game.
But as was the case for the entirety of the second half, Brookville couldn’t move the ball, and the Bees’ hopes slipped away as LCA secured a 14-7 victory, its third in a row.
“I’m just proud to win the game. It was a sloppy game. I’m not in any way pleased with the precision of the game, but ultimately, winning is what we need to be doing,” Rocco said, “and [I’m] really happy about that.”
The Bees, who picked up 134 yards of total offense, didn’t record a single first down in the second half. Offensively, the only two effective options were quarterback Jared Glinski and Ryan North.
Glinski, who finished 5-of-11 passing for 36 yards, tallied a team-high 75 rushing yards on nine carries. North, meanwhile, had 26 yards on eight touches, including a 2-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that tied the game at 7-7.
The two combined for five carries in the second half, which also featured seven of their nine total penalties. In the third and fourth quarters, Brookville had five chances to answer LCA’s go-ahead touchdown but came up short on each drive.
“We’ve struggled manufacturing points this year. ... I put that on me; I’m the O-coordinator, so it starts with me,” Meeks said. “Kids are playing their hearts out; we’ve got kids playing dinged up, and they’re leaving it out there every Friday night, so honestly, on the offensive side of the ball, that’s on me. I’ve gotta fix it. Defense, I think they’re playing phenomenal.”
BHS gave up 289 yards of total offense to LCA, made possible by a brilliant passing night from quarterback Josh Nelson. LCA’s run game, though, finished with minus-5 yards on 30 touches, with 16 of those plays going for negative or no yardage.
But Nelson shined as he connected with six different receivers and racked up 294 yards on 23-of-29 passing. Both of LCA’s touchdowns came on passes, the first a 10-yarder to his favorite target, Tyler Rose, and the second to Cade Wycoff.
“We got that momentum going in the passing game, and they couldn’t stop us,” Nelson said. “We were rolling.”
Rose, who caught just three passes in the first half, finished with 12 catches for 149 yards. Will Wycoff and Dillon Stowers finished with 58 and 48 receiving yards, respectively.
“They were playing 12 yards off, and if they’re gonna do that, then we can trust our quarterback to make the quick [passes],” Rose said.
Each of the three receivers was part of crucial third- or fourth-and-long plays the Bulldogs converted to keep drives alive.
On its first scoring drive in the first half, LCA converted a third-and-13 on a 38-yard pass and a fourth-and-17 on a 27-yard pass.
“That’s not the way you wanna do it, but I’m happy we were able to convert,” Rocco said. “Proud of our kids to be able to do it [in] adverse conditions.”
Rocco and his players all pointed out areas that need improvement, including sloppy play that led to three fumbles — all of which the Bulldogs recovered — and eight penalties.
But beating Brookville to open Seminole District play “sets the tone” for the Bulldogs, Rose said.
“They’re scrappy. They’re gonna fight with everybody. They’ve fought with the last two teams; they probably could’ve won those games,” Rose said of Brookville. “We’ve just got to go to the quarter [when] it’s whoever wants it more. I think our team is a brotherhood, and I think that’s why we’ll win these close games.
“You have to want it more than the other teams. Teams are gonna get tired and teams are gonna fold; both teams are tired, but who wants it more? ... You’ve gotta dig deep and find that extra part of you that is just ready to go kill somebody.”
Brookville, which started the season 0-3 for the first time since 1966, will look to clean things up on offense and rely on its work ethic to try to get back on track.
“Our kids don’t quit. That’s three weeks in a row we’ve lost by seven points. Literally one play,” Meeks said. “But I don’t look out there and see anyone hanging their head, not fighting to the final whistle. I guess I already knew that about them; they’re not gonna quit.
“This is not the start we wanted, but like I said, my guys are not gonna quit, so we’ll go back to the drawing board in the morning. … We’ve just gotta get over the hump.”
Emily Brown covers the Hillcats, ODAC and high school sports for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5529.