The Holly Bronchos football team has fought to some close losses and big victories this season, but their hard-fought 14-7 win over the Clio Mustangs might be the most valuable experience yet.
“Wins like this just add to the morale and are really important,” said head coach Ryan Culloty. “The kids are believing in it and they rose up.”
The Bronchos (3-2, 2-1 Flint Metro League) faced a well-balanced Clio team with a lot of weapons, including an effective spread offense and a ground attack led by junior Kane Williams.
The Bronchos opened up the game slow, going 3-and-out before punting to a Clio team that would mount a 90-yard drive that would consume nearly the entire first-quarter, ending in a goal-line stand for Holly’s defense, the first of several defensive stands for Holly.
Later in the second quarter, with Clio punting from its own end zone, punt returner Adam Tooley found daylight and took the ball back to Clio’s 1-yard line, with junior Paris Partee punching it in for the Broncho’s first lead. Kicker Amy Scruggs split the uprights to make the score 7-0.
Clio came out of the extended halftime on the move, with Williams busting loose for a 22-yard touchdown run to tie up the score at 7-7.
The Mustangs were ready for the Bronchos defensively, clogging up the outside and leaving Holly’s star back Javon Barr little room to operate and get up to the dangerous speed he’s known for.
Holly’s response? Hand it to bruiser Partee and follow his brute force down the field. Holly marched down behind Partee and its stable of backs, busting through the Clio line and dragging the pile for extra yard after extra yard.
And when Clio stacked the box and swarmed on Partee and sophomore fullback Collin Dallwitz? Give it to Barr to swing it to the sides and rocket downfield.
“They were going outside to try and stop our speed,” coach Culloty said, “and they left themselves open for our fullbacks. Then when they went to stop that, Javon was able to cut loose.”
Tooley capped the campaign off with a 1-yard touchdown run and Scruggs added the extra point to give the Bronchos the 14-7 lead.
“I was really proud of how we responded after their opening drive where they tied it up,” coach Culloty said. “They had all the momentum, it was Homecoming, and we went right back down 85 yards to punch it in.”
Clio would threaten again with a long drive in the fourth quarter, reaching their own five yard line before linebacker Christian Diaz would recover a fumble by Williams, saving the tying score.
Broncho quarterback Garrett Stapleton connected with Tooley on a pass that took Holly to mid-field on third-and-long, and then settled into letting Partee and Barr grind to Clio’s own 3 yard line. Unable to punch it in on 4th down, Holly’s defense contained the desperation Mustang passing offense to close out the game.
“That long pass was really the difference-maker in the game,” said coach Culloty. “We don’t hit that, it’s a different ball game. It’s disappointing we couldn’t score, but we took a lot of time off the clock and made it nearly impossible for them to mount a 99-yard drive.”
Barr finished as the leading rusher with 85 yards on 12 carries, with Partee contributing 76 yards on 12 carries with a touchdown. Stapleton completed 3 of 4 passes for 70 yards, all to Tooley. Scruggs went 2/2 on extra point attempts and remains perfect on the season at 8-for-8.
The Bronchos travel to (3-2, 2-1 FML) Flushing High School next Friday. The contest is expected to be a fantastic measuring stick for the Bronchos, with the Raiders having nearly identical results as Holly with league wins over Clio and Kearsley and a one-point loss to Linden.