The Friday night matchup between the Holly Bronchos and the Fenton Tigers was as highly anticipated as a prize fight, with league championship considerations on the line between bitter rivals and a pairing of the league’s top offense against a touted defense.
For the first half of the contest, it looked like everything like the billed heavyweight bout, with powerhouse Fenton and upstart Holly exchanging blows, the Bronchos never backing down. And in the second half, Fenton showed why they’re the best in the Flint Metro League (FML).
“Our guys played tough tonight and we never quit,” said head coach Ryan Culloty. “Fenton is one of the top teams in the league and you have to have your ducks in a row when you play them. Hats off to them.”
The Bronchos fell to the Tigers 35-19 on Senior Night in Holly, dropping the Bronchos to 4-3 overall and 3-2 in the FML. Fenton came out trying to set the tempo early, forcing a 3-and-out on Holly’s first possession and then marching down the field to take an early 7-0 lead on a keeper by quarterback Josh Czarnota.
Even without senior Matt Barnett, who was injured in the midst of a stellar special teams performance in Flushing last week, the Bronchos didn’t back down or seem to miss a step.
Holly moved into scoring position on a 32-yard pass to Bryce Jacopec to set up Collin Dallwitz to pound in a 1-yard run to tie it at 7. After forcing another Fenton punt, junior Peyton Bilbia broke free around the right end for an 83-yard touchdown run to take a 13-7 lead. A fake pass on the point-after attempt was barely incomplete.
Fenton settled in and led grinding drive after grinding drive on the Holly defense, carried by junior tailback Dylan Crankshaw and Czarnota. The Tigers offense racked up 371 yards of total offense on a usually stout Holly defense.
Crankshaw finished the game with 110 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
The Bronchos had a scare in the closing moments as senior star Javon Barr was hit hard and taken out of the game, resulting in a personal foul on Fenton and keeping the Holly drive alive. Barr later returned to play after the half.
Holly made it inside the Fenton red zone as the half was winding down, but the Fenton secondary broke up three passes, leaving Fenton to take a 21-13 lead into the locker room.
After the half, Fenton broke the game wide open, with Czarnota hitting Zach West on a pair of touchdown passes in the third and fourth quarters to cap surgical drives, widening the gap to 35-13. The Bronchos suffered the loss another key player as starting center/nose guard Russell Webb came out with a serious ankle injury, and senior Adam Tooley was rattled on a late hit out of bounds but returned to finish the game.
Holly put in one more score on a goal-line run by Tooley with 2:26 to go in the game to finish at 35-19. Kicker Amy Scruggs’s extra point attempt was no good, putting her at 1-2 on the night.
Junior quarterback Garrett Stapleton finished 7/17 for 107 yards passing. Bilbia was the leading rusher for the Bronchos with 106 yards on 9 attempts with a touchdown. Tooley was the top receiver with 69 yards on 5 receptions.
The loss takes the Bronchos out of contention for the Flint Metro League title, with Fenton and Linden still undefeated with two games to go in the regular season. At four wins and remaining matchups at Swartz Creek and Brandon, a playoff berth is still in reach for Holly to cap an amazing turnaround from the previous season.
“We have two weeks to get it done and get into the playoffs,” said coach Culloty, “so that’s what we’re going to focus on.”