In the first gridiron meeting between rivals Saint Stephen’s and Bradenton Christian since the 2010 season, the visiting Falcons went right to work on Friday night at Dan van der Kooy Field.
Saint Stephen’s scored the game’s first 28 points, including two touchdowns within the first 43 seconds, as it recorded a 49-20 victory over the Panthers in a Sunshine State Athletic Conference Coral Bay Division game. The Falcons (3-1, 1-0 in division play) took a 35-6 lead into halftime and invoked the running clock mercy rule early in the fourth quarter by taking a 49-14 lead on Ace Murrell’s 5-yard touchdown run.
On the game’s first play from scrimmage, Saint Stephen’s junior running back Chase Brown raced 64 yards for a touchdown. A fumble recovery in the end zone by sophomore defensive end Tyler Burnham 22 seconds later made it 14-0.
“I just think our kids were ready to go,” said Saint Stephen’s head coach Tod Creneti. “I think they really wanted to play. We forced a turnover there and that’s huge. A turnover in their end zone for a touchdown. You don’t scheme for those things, so that was huge. To get up 14-0 was great, but at the same time we had caution our kids and made sure that we continued to play hard.”
The Falcons would get a 5-yard touchdown pass from Fred Billy to Jordon Murrell on the first play of the second quarter, and Billy added another score with 8:13 left before halftime with a 1-yard run. Bradenton Christian, which forced and recovered a fumble at its own 22 with 6:33 left in the half, got on the board with a 1-yard touchdown pass from Dominick Otteni to Bathie Thiam.
Billy, who finished the game with 150 passing yards, fired a 59-yard touchdown pass to Ace Murrell with 2:22 left in the second quarter. Brown collected 148 yards on the ground, with 112 of those yards on seven first-quarter carries.
Aided by two pass interference penalties, Bradenton Christian drove down to the Falcons’ 8 late in the first half. However, the Panthers had to settle for an unsuccessful field goal attempt from 25 yards on the final play of the second quarter.
Midway through the third quarter, Bradenton Christian’s Kevin Etiene snagged an 11-yard touchdown pass from Otteni. Etiene had 108 yards on six receptions, while Otteni had 236 yards through the air and 89 on the ground.
Saint Stephen’s scored its final 14 points within a span of 3:22 between the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth quarter. Demetrius Davis scored on a 7-yard run before Ace Murrell’s second touchdown of the game.
“The rivalry aspect definitely pumps things up, but the division aspect for us is more important than the rivalry,” said Creneti.
Otteni closed out the scoring with 3:46 left with a 14-yard run.
“The neat thing about rivalries is our guys will have to walk around with a little somber look on their face when they see the folks in green, but this dog will have his day too,” Bradenton Christian head coach Allan Gerber said.
Who: St. Petersburg Keswick at Saint Stephen’s
When: Sept. 30, 7 p.m.
Where: Moore Athletic Complex, Bradenton
Who: Deltona Trinity Christian Academy at Bradenton Christian
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Dan van der Kooy Field, Bradenton