Holly Bronchos Head Coach Ryan Culloty was looking for this game to show where his team was, and where it was going, and Thursday night’s contest against the Williamston Hornets served its purpose.
Despite a valiant final drive in the closing seconds of the game, the Holly Bronchos (1-1) were unable to pull out a victory in harsh conditions Friday night, falling narrowly 6-7 to the Williamston Hornets (2-0).
Playing on a soggy and rain-soaked field, Holly’s defense shone through the mud, holding the Hornets to only 120 yards of offense, and 51 of their 60 passing yards coming on a single play.
“Williamston is a top quality program,” he said of the Hornets, who reached the MHSAA playoffs in 2014. “I was really proud of the way our defense went after them.”
Holly’s offense, however, struggled after coming out strong in the first half. A combination of the deteriorating field conditions, defensive adjustments and mental mistakes hampered their momentum as the game went on.
A line of severe storms came through Holly at about 6:20, with heavy rain, winds and lightning. The 7 p.m. kickoff was delayed until 7:50, and the game was delayed again for another half-hour at 8:30, 3 minutes into the second quarter.
The Bronchos came out charging once play resumed, starting on their own 10 yard line. Senior Javon Barr scampered to the left for an easy run-in to give the Bronchos their first score. After a foul on Holly moved the extra point attempt back to the 7 yard line, Senior Lorenzo Rodriguez pulled the kick wide left, leaving the score 6-0.
“If we punch that one in before halftime, it’s a different game,” Coach Culloty said.
The Bronchos defense would hold on the next possession, forcing a Williamston punt and starting their drive off at their own 46. Holly drove down the field in the final two minutes of the half, with Stapleton connecting with Senior Adam Tooley as time ran out, but Tooley was called down just inches from the goal line.
After an abbreviated 10-minute halftime, Williamston would strike back on their first possession, with a 51-yard pass from Jake Westphal to running back Jacob Christie, taking a 7-6 lead with 10:37 to go in the third quarter.
With rain showers resuming at the open the fourth quarter, both Holly and Williamston settled into a game of defensive attrition. Holly kept the ball on the ground for much of the second half, leaning on Junior Paris Partee, Tooley and Barr. The Bronchos reached Williamston’s 38-yard line before Stapleton was picked off by the Hornet’s Dan Ostrander on a fourth-and-11 attempt with 3:10 to go.
After holding the Hornets defensively again, Holly mounted its final march down the field. A strike from Stapleton to Tooley set up the Bronchos at midfield with 85 seconds left, followed a 26-yard reception to Senior Matt Barnett to set Holly up at their own 30 yard line.
But that was the last success the Bronchos would see. Facing fourth and 25 with seconds to go, Stapleton zeroed in on Barnett but was intercepted by Williamston’s Blair Johnson to end the game.
Stapleton ended 4/12 with 70 yards and 2 interceptions and 4 sacks. Partee led the Bronchos on the ground with 69 yards on 15 attempts, with Barr running for 56 yards and a touchdown. Tooley was Holly’s leading receiver with 44 yards on 3 catches.
Defensively, Junior Kyle Staple and Senior Cristian Diaz combined for 7 tackles.
“I think we learned we can play with heart,” Coach Culloty said. “We can play in the fourth quarter. And if we’re going to take the next step we have to pay better attention to detail.”
The Bronchos return to practice on Monday in preparation for their September 11 contest at Linden in both teams’ Flint Metro League opener.