Bonnabel High School linebacker Evonte Williams was asked after a practice this past summer which team he was looking forward to playing most this season.
Perhaps not so surprisingly, Williams emphatically responded “East Jeff!” The Warriors are the Bruins’ rivals and had routed Bonnabel last season on the way to the Class 4A state title.
Williams led a spirited defensive performance with a key interception Friday night at Yenni Stadium, as Bonnabel took a 21-14 victory in overtime.
“We had been telling the kids all week to be focused and secure in their talents,” said Bonnabel coach Reggie Rogers, whose team ended a four-game losing streak dating to last season, when it went 1-9. “We needed this win. Our defense was the key.”
Running back Maurice Britton scored on a 5-yard run in the overtime period, as Bonnabel (1-2) got the ball first. Fittingly, it was left up to the defense. With the Bruins’ crowd sensing victory, East Jefferson quarterback Tracey Bright was tackled at the 4-yard line on fourth-and-goal from the 6.
The win came after Bonnabel battled back from a 14-0 second-quarter deficit to tie the score by halftime and battle with the Warriors the rest of the way.
“Our defensive line started getting a push, and that helped the linebackers,” said Williams, who has been selected to play in the state All-Star game in December.
Bonnabel’s comeback began after a big play by another defensive player. With Bonnabel trailing 14-0 after a one-yard sneak by EJ’s Bright, Bruins defensive back Kardarius Bryant returned the ensuing kickoff 79 yards to the East Jeff 16. Running back Jarred Ambrose scored on a 5-yard run with 3:22 showing.
Then, two plays after the ensuing kickoff, the Bruins came up with another big play. Williams, a 6 feet 2, 240 pounds, intercepted a pass by Bright, giving Bonnabel the ball at their 36 at the 2:23 margin.
On the very next play, quarterback Semaj Franklin lofted a pass that wide receiver Denzal Winzy caught in stride at the East Jefferson 30 and took all the way for a 64-yard touchdown. Franklin rolled right and scored a two-point conversion, tying the score at 14.
As the game wore on, that would be a fortuitous development.
The Warriors (1-2) drove 43 yards for a 33-yard field-goal attempt with six seconds left before halftime by normally reliable Jose Espinoza, but the kick went wide right as the buzzer sounded.
Espinoza was short on a 42-yard try at 4:41 of the fourth quarter.
“We just made too many mistakes,” said East Jefferson first-year coach Marc Martin, his team with many new players from the state championship team. “We had too many penalties at the wrong time, and we had a chance to score (when the interception came).”
From the outset, however, it was clear this was not going to be another East Jefferson romp.
However, the Warriors did begin to take control in the second quarter. That was mainly due to Bright taking matters into his hands.
He guided East Jeff on an 89-yard drive in which he kept the ball on five of the 11 plays, scoring on a 6-yard run at 10:42 of the second. He started with a 27-yard run and later completed an 11-yard pass to wingback Kalib Brown to the Bonnabel 45 on third-and-nine with. Bright finished with 57 yards rushing on the drive.
East Jefferson made it 14-0 with 5:50 left before halftime on Bright’s 1-yard sneak, completing a 57-yard drive.
Bright gained 133 yards and two touchdowns on 14 yards in the first half. However, the Warriors were held to 107 total yards in the second half.