Friday night’s District 6-3A match up between University High and Brusly looked like a mismatch on paper, but the Panthers never got that memo.
Utilizing a ball-control offense that finished off drives, Brusly threw a scare into the top-ranked Cubs before falling 35-27 at Boss Field-Gill Stadium.
Brusly (3-6, 2-4) came into the game on a two-game winning streak, and showed confidence in its offense from the start. The Panthers went on to run 75 plays to U-high’s 40. They also converted 8 of 18 third downs, and seven of eight fourth downs.
“We kind of found our identity on offense, and found what we can do,” first-year Brusly coach Marc Brown said. “We got a late start with the coaching staff, but we’re moving in the right direction at the right time. We’re peaking.”
U-High (8-1, 6-0) didn’t take the lead until D.J. White’s 35-yard touchdown pass to Chris Raymond with 3:11 left in the third quarter. Austin Gale’s extra point put the Cubs on top 28-27.
White connected with Christian Harris for a 51-yard score in the fourth, but the Cubs had to sweat out a final drive by Brusly. The Panthers had a first at the UHS 20 with a minute left to play, but Laryon James intercepted Brusly’s Jason Holliday on third down to preserve the win.
“We had them in some third and fourth downs, but they converted. They did a good job with that,” U-High coach Chad Mahaffey said. “As far as looking inward, we’ve got to do a better job (defensively) getting off the field.”
Holliday led the Brusly effort with 124 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 36 carries. He also completed 7 of 12 passes for 128 yards and another score.
White was 7 of 13 for 132 yards and three touchdowns, but was intercepted twice. Mike Hollins keyed the ground attack with 143 yards, including a 50-yard score in the third.
In the first half, Brusly found the best defense was a ball control offense. Fueled by three time-consuming drives, the Panthers held the ball for more than 20 minutes, and surged to a 21-14 lead.
It began with the first possession of the game. Sparked by Holliday’s tipped 52-yard completion to Caleb Dupont, Brusly went 80 yards in eight plays. Avery Grant’s 2-yard run gave the Panthers a 7-0 lead.
Barely a minute later, U-High quickly tied the score. White capped a 53-yard drive with a 22-yard scoring toss to Harris.
The Panthers answered with an 18-play, 69-yard drive that bridged the first and second quarters, and ate up 7:42 off the clock. The Panthers converted four third downs and a fourth down in the series.
By the time Holliday finished off the drive with a 1-yard run, less than 10 minutes remained in the half. But Brusly wasn’t done.
On U-High’s ensuing series, Dylan Claiborne intercepted White at midfield. The Cubs defense stiffened momentarily, but Holliday found a wide open Tyler Nash over the middle for a 24-yard score on fourth-and-11.
Trailing 21-7, U-High scored on just its third possession of the half to pull within a touchdown. The Cubs hurriedly went 64 yards scoring on White’s 7-yard keeper to pull within a touchdown.