Friday night proved to be this season's last hoorah for Brookfield's football team, as the eight-seed Bulldogs fell to an unblemished Lafayette County side in Higginsville, 30-13, in the district opener. The Bulldogs end their season 2-8.
Although the blue-and-white was unable to pull off the major upset, it had Lafayette County holding its breath for much of the first half.
Brookfield received the opening kickoff, and eventually turned the ball over on downs. In fact, of the first four combined possessions of the football game, each resulted in some form of turnover, including one of five interceptions thrown by Brookfield quarterback Castor Dodd. After the Huskers turned the ball over on downs for the second time in two possessions, the 'Dogs went to work.
Brookfield receiver Brandon Collins sparked the opening scoring drive of the game. After reeling in a pass for a first down, Dodd found him again on the next play for a 40-yard reception aided by a light southerly breeze. Collins was interfered with by talented Husker defensive back Elijah Thirkield, but managed to shimmy out of an arm-grab and highpoint Dodd's best-thrown ball of the evening.
A few plays later, from the opponent's 29-yard line, the Bulldogs' coaching staff, against a heavily favored opponent, showed that it was unafraid to gamble house money.
Dodd pitched the ball to Tim Izard, and to the home crowd's astonishment, Izard completed a crisp 29-yard touchdown pass to Khalil Walker.
With 3:29 remaining in the first quarter, the Bulldogs looked as though the powers that be were on their side, and the visitors' east sideline was raucous.
"We were confident in what we did," Brookfield head coach Scott Stevens said. "We went into this game expecting to win, and our guys believed it. We feel like we're a very good football team in a very tough conference, and coming into tonight with two wins didn't mean anything to us. These guys believed, and that's what put us in this football game."
The Bulldogs were brought back to earth just three plays later, however, when dynamic Lafayette County quarterback Kinser Madison busted off a 56-yard scamper to tie the ballgame at seven apiece.
After Dodd threw his second pick on the next possession, Madison broke loose for another 51-yard score.
"Those were both the exact same play, there was a good seal with a good down-block and (Madison) runs extremely hard," Lafayette County coach Steve Cook said.
The visiting Bulldogs were far from housebroken, however, and on the ensuing kickoff, Izard returned the ball to the opposing 29-yard line. Tanner Wallace reeled in a Dodd ball right at the goal line, and Walker mashed it across the plane two plays later.
Although Brookfield again reached into its bag of tricks, recovering a surprise onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, Dodd threw his third pick on the next play, under-throwing Walker on a seam route.
The Huskers scored again before the halftime break, methodically marching downfield and enabling Thirkield to capitalize from nine yards out.
Lafayette County took a 21-13 lead into the locker room, and held the Bulldogs scoreless in the second half.
"We've been down early in football games, and that's just the way this game goes," Cook said. "We have a good defense, and it led to a second-half shutout. They did a good job of keeping us off-balance early with run/pass, and they were able to make a couple of good, deep connections. Once we got back to our base stuff, we got more comfortable and pound the football a little bit better."
A four-and-a-half minute scoring drive to open the second half gave the Huskers a two-touchdown advantage, and the only score from thereon was a field goal with 1:30 remaining.
The Bulldogs finished with 261 total yards of offense on 59 plays. Lafayette County ended the evening with 484 yards from scrimmage on just two more plays than the 'Dogs.
Walker, one of the four seniors the 'Dogs will lose next season, finished the game with 51 yards receiving on six grabs, and just five yards on the floor on three carries. He also recorded an interception as time dwindled in the first half. Izard rushed for 45 yards on 13 carries, and Collins' five receptions were good for 115 yards. Dodd finished 12-of-32 passing for 173 yards.
Seventeen points was the smallest margin of victory the Huskers have enjoyed this season.
"We knew that early, we'd be able to get our shots," Stevens said. "We tried to take a lot of shots, probably one or two too many, and schematically, we made the simple adjustment of putting Walker at fullback. Our offensive line was up to the challenge against a very good defense.
"I'm proud of the way these guys have fought all year."