CLARION â€” The Raiders knew heading into the District IX Class AA Championship Game at Clarion University's Memorial Stadium that they had to be nearly flawless to keep pace with the undefeated Brockway Rovers Friday night.
Four turnovers, an inability to capitalize on limited opportunities and an ineffective defense against one of the best quarterbacks statistically in the history of Pennsylvania, and Brookville was in for one long night.
Derek Buganza finished 14-for-16 for 301 yards through the air, including five touchdown passes, as the Rovers commanded the contest en route to a 50-0 victory.
Though the score would say otherwise, the Raiders had a bit of momentum early and a chance to put the favorites in an early hole following a fumbled Brockway kick return to open the game.
Brookville took over on the Rovers' 34-yard line, but failed to do anything with it, leaving a golden opportunity on the field.
From there, Brockway was in total control, quickly moving the ball downfield for a 17-yard touchdown pass from Buganza to Chris Marshall to make it an early 7-0 lead for Brockway.
Brookville running back Ryan Kerr fumbled on the Raiders' ensuing possession, leading to a Jake Shaffer six-yard touchdown catch to make it 14-0.
As was the theme throughout the night, things just kept getting worse and worse for Brookville.
"No disrespect, but I don't want to break it (the game) down," Brookville head coach Chris Dworek said. "I don't want to go into thinking about the first series or the second series or the third series. The simple thing was that the wheels fell off, and we couldn't recover. It was one thing here, and it was 7-0, then another thing here, and it was 14-0. And it just gets out of hand."
After each team traded possessions â€” Brockway's punt was its only possession of the game, minus the final drive, in which it didn't end in a score â€” Brookville put together its best drive of the game.
Beginning on their own 23-yard line, the Raiders successfully rushed the ball downfield behind strong running by Kerr and Conan Gilhousen to set up a first down from the Brockway 18-yard line.
Brookville made it fourth-and-two from the 10-yard line before Gilhousen was stopped short on a run up the middle to turn the ball over on downs.
Had the Raiders converted on that drive and cut the lead in half, little time would have been left on the first half clock for Brockway.
Instead, the Raiders gave the ball back to the Rovers with 2:47 left in the half, and Brockway needed just one play when Kyle Braun took a screen pass â€” a play that Brookville failed to stop all night â€” and went 91 yards for the touchdown. A successful two-point conversion made it 22-0, and Brookville was left scratching its head at how quickly the tide had turned.
"You hope you can stop it, and you have good practices, but obviously, (Brockway) is very good at it," Dworek said of the Rovers' offense. "That was just one of those things that we didn't do very well when we had the chance."
If things could have gotten any worse, they did in a hurry when Brockway's Joe Caruso picked off a Steven Kennedy pass on Brookville's next play from scrimmage.
As expected, the Rovers once again wasted little time before punching it in, this time on a 30-yard touchdown catch by Shaffer to make it 29-0.
With very little to hang onto, the air was completely let out of the Brookville sideline when the ensuing kickoff was fumbled by Brookville, giving possession once again back to Brockway.
Marshall rushed for a 10-yard touchdown two plays later to give the Rovers a dominating 36-0 lead with 56 seconds left in the half.
After not finishing off the potential scoring drive, the Raiders surrendered 22 points in less than two minutes.
"The guys are emotional. If it's a close game, we keep our emotions up on full speed," Dworek said. "When those things don't happen on offense, it deflates our defense. That's a big part of trying to stay in it â€” us executing better."
The score stayed at 36-0 by halftime, giving Dworek the difficult task of getting his players fired up with the mercy rule already in effect by the break.
"I didn't know if we could come back from it, but I told the guys we were going to try," Dworek said. "What else are we going to do? I said we're going to come out as hard as we can, come out swinging and see what happens. I told them to have no regrets in the second half."
After punting the ball away, the Raiders gave up another touchdown catch, this time a 41-yarder to Mike Vervoort with 4:58 left in the third quarter to make it 43-0 and put Brookville in an even deeper hole.
The next Raiders possession resulted in a Cam Yard fumble, allowing Brockway's Zack Freemer to rush it in from one yard out on just five plays to put Brockway up by 50 points.
Kerr finished with a team-high 98 yards rushing on 21 carries. Gilhousen ran for 56 yards on nine carriers.
Kennedy finished 5-for-12 passing for 45 yards in the loss.
The most difficult task Dworek had all night most likely came in the locker room following the game, as he tried to remind his team that the Raiders accomplished a lot during the 2010 season. Bouncing back after the poor 2009 campaign, Brookville put together an 8-2 regular season, with quality wins coming against quality opponents along the way.
"If someone said at the end of the year, we'd be 9-3, I don't know," Dworek said. "My expectations are very high for this team, and I told them not to let a bad game ruin a good, fun and tough season. I know this group of seniors is phenomenal.
"It's a special team because of the seniors," he said. "We did a lot together, going on trips, going to games and camps. All of that combined is special. It's all of it."View more articles in: