RICHMOND HILL — First-year Richmond Hill head coach Matt LeZotte wasn’t worried about style points after his team rallied for a sluggish 17-14 win Friday night over Bradwell Institute at Wildcat Stadium.
“I’ll take 10 of ’em,” LeZotte said. “It doesn’t matter.”
Second-year Bradwell coach Greg Hill can relate. The heartbreaking loss was the Tigers’ 13th straight to begin his tenure.Richmond Hill quarterback Brian Hughes scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 2-yard run with 5 minutes, 32 seconds left in the game, and the Wildcats followed with two defensive stops to preserve the win. RHHS improved to 2-0 overall and 1-0 in Region 3-AAAAA, while Bradwell fell to 0-
3 and 0-1.
“It’s going to come, and it can’t come soon enough,” Hill said of a win for BI. “Our kids have put in the work. You can see the progression, but we’re still not quite there yet, and we have to continue to push and get better.”
Following Hughes’ touchdown, Terrius Crimiel returned the kickoff 64 yards to Richmond Hill’s 27. However, the defense held, and Quin McMassey’s pass to Duane Johnson on fourth-and-8 was broken up near the goal line by Christian Scholar.
“He made a great play on the ball,” LeZotte said of Scholar.
The Tigers had one last chance, taking over at their own 20-yard line with 1:06 remaining after a Richmond Hill punt. Luther Echols kept the drive alive with a 22-yard run on fourth-and-3 from Bradwell’s 27.
Echols ripped off another long run, this time for 24 yards, but the drive stalled at the Wildcats’ 26, and McMassey spiked the ball to stop the clock with three seconds to play. Ryan Wells missed a 43-yard field goal attempt as time expired.
“We couldn’t have played a worse game and come out on top, so I’m proud of the guys persevering,” LeZotte said. “When it got tough, they responded. They ended up making plays when they had to at the end.”
Bradwell took advantage of a short field to score the game’s first touchdown. A shanked Richmond Hill punt netted 3 yards, setting up the Tigers at the Wildcats’ 19-yard line.
McMassey converted a fourth down with a 5-yard pass to Christian Evans to the 9, and Echols scored off right tackle on the next play. Wells tacked on the extra point to put Bradwell up 7-0 with 1:10 left in the first quarter.
Richmond Hill looked poised to tie the score early in the second quarter after Aaron Chick intercepted a pass and returned it 30 yards to Bradwell’s 15. However, Hughes’ 3-yard touchdown run was nullified by an illegal shift penalty, and the Wildcats settled for Petrino’s 25-yard field goal to close the gap to 7-3.
Bradwell followed with an 18-play march that took more than eight minutes off the clock, but came away empty. The Tigers kept the drive going with three fourth-down conversions, but their fourth try fell just short as Echols was stopped inside the 1-yard line on fourth-and-goal from the 3.
“That was big,” Hill said, “because if we get that score there and we’re up, and then we get the ball back (to start) the second half, that would’ve taken us in (to halftime) with the momentum.
“Unfortunately, it’s a game of inches, and we came up short,” Hill continued. “That’s kind of been our thing. We’ve been coming up short, but one day, it’s going to bounce our way, and we’ll get it.”
The Wildcats took their first lead after recovering a fumble at Bradwell’s 23-yard line on the third play of the second half. Hughes scored from 4 yards out with 9:49 remaining in the third quarter.
The Tigers regained the lead in the fourth quarter after forcing a turnover. Crimiel’s big hit jarred the ball loose from a Wildcat receiver on a pass from Hughes, and Joshua Ingram caught the ball in midair at the Richmond Hill 46.
Echols accounted for all of Bradwell’s yards on the drive, starting with runs of 12 and 16 yards. After an offside penalty against Richmond Hill, Echols gained 8 more yards to set up first-and-goal at the 5.
The call again went to Echols, who took a handoff to the right, put his hand on the ground to keep his balance and ran into the end zone. Wells’ extra point gave Bradwell a 14-10 lead with 9:41 to play.
Bradwell has a bye this week and will return to action Sept. 25 at home against Ware County.