It’s not easy for a football team to overcome four turnovers and win, but the Brunswick School football team did so Saturday against Williston Northampton School.
Faced with adversity, the Bruins needed a long touchdown run by Chris Gaine, a score off a scramble by quarterback Danny Lauter and an interception by defensive back Charlie Johnson to get the result they were hoping for.
Lauter’s 21-yard touchdown run with 3:13 remaining in the fourth quarter gave Brunswick the lead and Johnson’s interception in the corner of the end zone in the game’s final seconds secured a hard-fought 20-15 win over Williston Northampton at crowded Robert L. Cosby Field.
The come-from-behind victory was the third straight for the Bruins, who have a 3-1 mark in the Northeast Prep standings.
Bruins coach Mike Hannigan was especially pleased with his team’s ability to make plays in clutch situations and their composure during adverse moments.
“Whether it’s self imposed or not, adversity is something we talk a lot about,” Hannigan said. “We tell the kids when faced with adversity, you have to go back to what you do well. Have confidence in your abilities and the preparation that we’ve given you and the team did that.”
Trailing 20-15, Brunswick’s game-winning drive started off in rough fashion, as Lauter was sacked by Williston senior defensive lineman Zachary Athy, pinning the team back to its own 17-yard line. Yet Lauter completed a 16-yard pass on the next play, then connected with senior wide receiver Jason Agudelo for 24 yards. A Williston unsportsmanlike conduct penalty added 15 more yards to the play, setting Brunswick up at the Williston Northampton 28-yard line.
On a third-down-and-three play from the Williston 21-yard line, Lauter dropped back to pass, was pressured and scrambled up the middle. After tucking the ball in and running, he found a big lane to the left and sprinted to the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown run. The point-after attempt was converted and the Bruins took a 20-15 lead with 3:13 left in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve been repping it all week, a two-minute drill, we had to go down the field and drive,” Lauter said. “A lot of people made plays, there were some missed tackles and we ended up scoring on that drive.”
Hannigan was impressed with the Bruins’ execution on offense during the go-ahead drive and Lauter’s decision-making on the play, which resulted in his touchdown run.
“We’ve practiced a lot of situations, game-like situations, so it’s business as usual,” Hannigan said. “Danny recognizes when they’re in man coverage and when everyone is dropping, he is going to be the most dangerous runner on the field and I’m really happy with that decision and the way he tucked it into the end zone.”
Following Brunswick’s go-ahead score, the Wildcats took possession and effectively moved the ball down the field, behind the running of Marcus Crawford, who consistently churned out yards on the ground. Following a 10-yard reception for a first down by sophomore receiver James Elliott, the Wildcats reached the Bruins 28-yard line with just over one minute remaining. A Brunswick offsides penalty moved the ball up to the Brunswick 23-yard line and on second down, Williston quarterback Drew Renzella dropped back to pass and threw the ball to the left corner of the end zone. Defending the play perfectly, Johnson stepped in front of the receiver and intercepted the pass, sealing the Bruins’ triumph with just under one minute left to play.
“We were in cover-two and I saw the guy release toward the sideline and the ball got up and I had no idea how close or far I was from the sideline,” Johnson said. “I got the ball in my hands and was able to get one foot down at least and we were able to get off the field and win the game.”
Leading 14-8, Brunswick turned the ball over for the fourth time when it fumbled on its own 13-yard line. After linebacker Jacob Blandburg’s fumble recovery on a Brunswick running play gave Williston prime field position, the Wildcats scored in five plays. Crawford’s 1-yard run into the end zone capped the drive and Christopher Luedeke’s extra point put gave the visitors a 15-14 edge with 6:14 to go in the final quarter.
The Bruins seized a 14-8 advantage on one of the game’s most spectacular plays. On a first down play, Gaine took Lauter’s handoff, ran to his right toward the sideline, ran right through a Williston defender and showcased his speed, dashing down the right sideline for a 75-yard touchdown run with 11.5 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Gaine’s long touchdown run that displayed his speed and strength gave Brunswick a 14-8 lead before its enthusiastic home crowd.
“We needed momentum, we were down and they put the ball in my hands and I just wanted to deliver,” said Gaine, a senior. “I got the edge and I saw one guy my way and I took it to him and once I was free, I knew no one was going to catch me.”
“Shout out to my OC and my O-line, I love those guys, they’re really awesome,” Gaine continued. “There was no way I was getting caught. I had my head down, just huffing and puffing.”
Said Hannigan: “He’s (Gaine) got great break away speed, but what really impressed me about that one was that he ran through a tackle. It would have been close to the line of the scrimmage and he was putting the team on his shoulders today. It was a great job.”
Added Lauter: “That was a great hit, a one-play drive, that really helped us out.”
Brunswick went ahead on their second possession of the game, a drive that began at the Williston 15-yard line after senior linebacker Hunter Clark sacked Renzella, who fumbled. Bruins junior defensive lineman Jesse Schutzman pounced on the fumble, giving his team possession in the Red Zone.
Eason had a 7-yard run on the short drive, then capped it by hauling in a 1-yard touchdown pass from Lauter, making it 7-0 with 3:45 to go in the opening quarter. The visitors’ ensuing drive stalled at the Brunswick 30-yard line, thanks to the pressure Schutzman and senior lineman Lyndon Gay put on Renzella.
“Fifteen points is kind of where we want to be in terms of giving up points,” Hannigan said of the squad’s defense. “If we can do that every week, we are going to give the offense a chance to win.”
Passing the ball to senior wide receiver Ashton Winegardner and Agudelo, while running the ball with Eason, the Bruins drove down the field just past the midway point of the second quarter, but Jacob Blandburg intercepted a pass, halting the march at the Williston 24-yard line.
After recovering a Brunswick fumble, the Wildcats drove 48 yards and five plays, capped by Renzella’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Colin Larson with 37.1 seconds left in the second quarter. Opting to go for two points, the Wildcats were successful on their two-point conversion attempt, running it into the end zone to take an 8-7 lead into halftime.
Despite the team committing four turnovers, the Bruins’ defense stepped up, holding the Wildcats to a pair of scores.
“We did a really good job,” said Brunswick senior linebacker George Villis, who was among a number of players who helped lead the team’s defense. “We had a couple of penalties offsides, but we really stepped up in the running game. We had a few plays over our heads, but we were able to adjust to that and make some big plays.”
Indeed, the Bruins, who defeated Williston convincingly in season’s past, were impressed with their foe from Massachusetts this time around.
“This year it was a tough matchup, it’s great to see them improving,” Villis said.
“The coaching staff at Williston did a great job,” Hannigan noted. “They had a few in-game adjustments, they had a few pregame adjustments, they really put their kids in a position to make plays and they played really hard.”
Up next for Brunswick is a road game against Wyoming Seminary College Prep in Pennsylvania on Oct. 16.
“Williston is a great team, all respect to them,” Gaine said. “They had a great game plan coming in. This really shows the resilience of our squad. We had some mistakes, but we bounced back. We’re a great team and we have so many key players, so we know if one person makes a mistake another person is right there to pick him up. This one is really sweet in front of the whole crowd, it’s really awesome.”