By Kyle Shaner
BRADFORD – Bradford got its first win of the 2016 football season on Friday, defeating Manchester 37-12 in the Railroaders’ Homecoming game.
After five consecutive losses to start the season, first-year Bradford head coach Dave McFeely was thrilled that the Railroaders were able to get their first victory and had them take a photo in front of the scoreboard to commemorate the occasion – a photo he plans to put on his desk.
“Oh, God, it took so long,” McFeely said of getting the first win of the year. “It took a long time, but it feels pretty good. It feels pretty good.
“The kids played extremely hard, and they deserve to have a little bit of success.”
Bradford played well in all phases of the game to earn the victory with solid running from Mason Justice, Hunter Penkal and Dillon Reck; efficient passing by quarterback Andrew Branson; strong special teams play including a punt return for a touchdown by Dialaquan Millhouse and strong defense with multiple goal-line stands.
“I think the kids came to play tonight,” McFeely said. “If we can continue that for the next four games maybe we can cause some havoc for some people.”
Bradford asserted itself immediately as the Railroaders took the opening drive 56 yards for a touchdown. Branson connected with Millhouse for a 30-yard touchdown pass to cap off the seven-play drive and give the Railroaders a 6-0 lead.
After turning a second down and inches into a three and out with back-to-back tackles in the backfield, Bradford continued to dominate the first quarter with another score.
The Railroaders went 63 yards in eight plays with Penkal racing 34 yards for a touchdown. He also scored on the two-point conversion, making it a 14-0 game.
Manchester’s offense got going on its second possession, putting together a 17-play drive that took nine minutes off the clock. The Greyhounds came within inches of scoring but ultimately fumbled at the goal line. Bradford’s Adam Rostkowski recovered the loose ball at the 2-yard line, ending Manchester’s scoring threat.
Bradford’s offense moved the ball away from the goal line but then fumbled, giving Manchester possession in Railroader territory following a recovery by Patrick Baldwin. However, the Greyhounds failed to capitalize on the opportunity and turned the ball over on downs at the Bradford 49-yard line following a bad snap on fourth down.
The Railroaders made the Greyhounds pay for the mistake and went 51 yards in five plays with Jake Barga hauling in a 25-yard touchdown pass from Branson with 31 seconds left in the half. With a two-point run by Justice, Bradford led 22-0 entering halftime.
After forcing a Manchester three and out early in the third quarter, Millhouse returned the ensuing punt for a touchdown. Justice caught a two-point conversion pass, and the Railroaders led 30-0.
Just four plays later, though, Manchester got its first score of the game with a 40-yard touchdown run by Nick Woolard to make the score 30-6.
After Manchester recovered an onside kick, the teams traded turnovers. First Justice intercepted a pass, then Bradford fumbled and Kyle Mills intercepted a pass, giving the Railroaders the ball at their own 3-yard line.
Bradford then put together a nine-play, 97-yard drive culminating in a 26-yard touchdown pass from Branson to Justice for a 37-6 lead in the fourth quarter.
The teams traded turnovers again with Josiah Brewer intercepting pass and Bradford fumbling at its own 16-yard line. That set up a 12-yard touchdown run by Manchester as time expired, making the final score 37-12.
“It was a good win for us,” McFeely said. “We needed it very badly, and I couldn’t be happier for the kids.”
Unofficially Bradford has 299 total yards with 218 rushing yards and 81 passing yards.
Branson was 3-of-4 passing for 81 yards and three touchdowns. Millhouse caught a 30-yard touchdown pass, Justice caught a 26-yard touchdown pass, and Barga caught a 25-yard touchdown pass.
Justice ran 15 times for 99 yards, Penkal ran seven times for 65 yards and a touchdown, and Reck ran nine times for 53 yards.
Bradford fumbled three times. Manchester fumbled once and threw three interceptions.
Manchester’s Marcus Neeley was 8-of-18 passing for 128 yards and three interceptions. Woolard caught four passes for 31 yards, and Shawn Gould caught three for 81.
Woolard had one carry for 40 yards and a touchdown. Baldwin had 28 yards on 12 carries. Neeley had 7 yards on 17 carries.
Bradford improved to 1-5 with Friday’s win while Manchester fell to 1-5.
“We’ve got to build on this and try to get better,” McFeely said.
The Railroaders will travel to Dayton this upcoming week to take on Jefferson, who is 0-6 on the season. Last year Bradford beat the Broncos 24-20.
McFeely now hopes Bradford can build off the positive energy of its first win and finish the season strong.
“We haven’t given kids any helmet stickers until we win our first game and we won our first game so they’re going to get some helmet stickers come Monday,” he said.
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.