Brookfield stuns potent Macon with ferocious ground game
Line helps Tommy ‘Gunn’ it for 246 yards, three TDs. Big D-lineman Tucker has long strip-and-score
BROOKFIELD — Hosting an opponent with big-time offensive playmaking capability and 30 or more points scored in three of its four prior games, the Brookfield High School football Bulldogs likely would not have found a lot of people, especially among neutral observers, expecting them to make a game of – much less win – their Clarence Cannon Conference home clash with Macon last Friday.
That’s just what the Bulldogs did, however, with an old-school approach.
Leaning hard on the offensive line and senior running back Tommy Gunn to try to control the clock and help keep the Tigers’ potent attack on the sidelines, Brookfield used a mix of that tactic’s success with a huge defensive play by senior tackle Austin Tucker to earn a 32-28 verdict at Burlington Field.
The win moved the Bulldogs’ records midway through head coach Cory Luke’s rookie season up to 2-3 overall and 1-2 in the CCC. Macon sagged to the same marks.
“I feel like our guys have gotten better every single day since I’ve got here,” Luke, who only graduated from Central Methodist University at Fayette last May, shared with the LCL Sunday evening. “… I talked to the guys about it going into this game, ‘Hey, we’re getting better, but, at some point, we have to get better and win. … At the end of the day, if you’re still losing, it doesn’t feel that productive.”
The win – especially in front of the home crowd – felt mighty productive, but the young coach wants the improvement to continue, not plateau.
“We definitely still have a lot of room for improvement,” he commented. “I still don’t think we’ve had a game where we we’ve been able to not only run it, but also pass it, or not only pass it, but also run it. … We’ve definitely got to be able to put that together.”
Behind the strong play of the offensive line and the hard running of the 5’7”, 180-pounds Gunn, Brookfield “shortened” the game effectively.
Amassing close to 300 yards on the ground – 246 of them by Gunn on 41 carries that included three touchdowns, BHS kept the clock moving steadily. That lessened the number of times Macon’s talented, pass-oriented, big-play offense got on the field, which often leads to frustration and impatience on such an offense’s part.
“I felt like the difference was we were able to develop a run game. We only threw two or three passes,” Luke confirmed.
“… Having the ability to keep the ball on the ground, limit the turnovers, and kind of play the field-position game was huge for us.”
Not having ever trailed, Brookfield found itself facing the possibility of surrendering a last-minutes go-ahead score which could have spoiled the otherwise-uplifting performance it had given for about 45 minutes.
With about four minutes to go, Macon got ball in very good field position near midfield, the BHS coach recounted, but the Bulldogs’ defense held on downs and, even with the Tigers 100% certain BHS would keep the ball on the ground, the offense earned a couple of first downs to run out clock.
“The guys up front (on the offensive line), they just battled and fought all game,” saluted Luke. “We didn’t throw one single pass in the second half.
“… My hat goes off to the guys up front and Tommy, for sure.”
As scripted and desired, Brookfield created time-consuming offensive possessions, steadily moving the yardsticks, the BHS coach delineated.
“It was mostly being able to get in second-and-manageable, third-and-manageable (down-and-distance situations),” he reviewed. “… It wasn’t real big plays. It was just having the ability to sustain drives.”
Luke said he thought Gunn’s longest gain of the game was no more than 20 yards and only a few were of double-digits distance.
Of equal importance was keeping a clean slate in the turnovers category. Hurt by them, particularly interceptions, in the first four games, Brookfield did not surrender the ball at all against Macon.
Conversely, its defense made two takeaways – one effectively meaningless as it came on a MHS fourth-down play the Bulldogs had stopped short of the line to gain anyway, but the other massive – both in terms of its impact and who made it.
With the game close throughout, although never with the visitors on top, Luke recalled, defensive tackle Tucker used his 6’4”, 280-pounds size to help stop one Macon play and his strength and alertness to pull the ball out of a Tiger’s hands around the BHS 40 and ramble and rumble all the way to the end zone about 60 yards away.
“It was a pretty exciting play,” Luke said in unintended understatement.
That was the highlight play of a generally-effective defensive performance from start to finish.
“Our defense really played well,” lauded Luke. “Had a couple of big plays (allowed), but, other than that, we for the most part kept them in check.
“Macon has an extremely explosive offense. … They were able to move the ball pretty well, but our defense stayed in it and they battled and were able to do enough. (Defensive coordinator) Coach (Ken) Polley came into the game with a great game-plan.”
The BHS defenders gave up a long touchdown pass to Chrisjen Riekeberg on a slant-route catch-and-run, but surrendered only three scores. The fourth MHS score came from its dangerous kick-returns game on a kickoff right after one of Gunn’s scoring runs.
“The big plays are going to happen, but we were able to have those big plays and respond, which is something we really challenged the team to do in weeks past,” coach Luke reflected Sunday. “I was really happy to see them answer those big plays, rather than kind of just giving in.”
The final component of the spirits-lifting, “buy-in”-boosting Brookfield triumph was its success in following each of its four touchdowns with a 2-points conversion. All four came via running plays.
“That ended up being the difference,” the Bulldogs head coach observed.
Brookfield will try to build on last Friday’s success at home again this Friday, but with a tougher challenge. Unbeaten Monroe City (5-0, 3-0 conf.) will be the visitors to Burlington Field for more league play.