Smith's punt return seals Raider victory

BROOKVILLE — The Brookville Raiders came from behind to beat the St. Marys Flying Dutchmen 19-15 Friday night, thanks to a clutch 90-yard punt return from Braiden Smith in the fourth quarter.

Despite Brookville's offensive shortcomings in the first half, the defense played tough all night to keep the game in reach.

"The defense buckled down a lot more than we have in years. The red zone defense played super, and we created a couple of turnovers that helped us out," said varsity coach Chris Dworek.

With under four minutes left to go in the game, Smith received a punt at the 10-yard line and sprinted up the left side of the field to give Brookville its first lead of the contest.

"We had a wall set up and they executed it nicely... those young guys setting up the wall, that was big, and Braiden (Smith) didn't panic and he scooped the ball up and knew where the wall was and got to it," said Dworek.

The Raiders got off to a rocky start Friday night. Brookville opened the game with a fumble on the kick-off return and St. Marys recovered.

The Flying Dutchmen took over on the 20-yard line. Brookville's resilient defense stayed strong and forced the Dutchmen to punt four plays later.

Brookville struggled on its drive, grabbing a penalty on the first play.

Running back Zach Vroman ran on first and 15 and fumbled due to the rainy, slippery conditions. Brookville recovered the fumble, and Vroman ran again on second down for three yards. On third and 12, quarterback Cameron Yard ran the ball himself for six yards. Nathan Bonfardine came out and punted on fourth down.

St. Marys alternated carries between Joe Luchini and Alex Feldbauer until they pounded their way to the 2-yard line. Feldbauer then trotted in for the first score of the game. Kicker Christian Keller then booted in the extra point to put the Dutchmen up 7-0.

Things only got worse for the Raiders on the next drive. Yard ran for four, then Vroman ran for three. Brodie Zacherl took the hand-off on third and three but was stuffed by the Dutchmen defensive line for no gain. On fourth and three, Bonfardine was set up in punting formation when the ball sailed over his head and he was forced to fall on the ball in the end zone, forcing the Raiders into a safety. St. Marys was on top 9-0.

The Raiders didn't strike back until two drives later. The drive started with a holding call, putting the Raiders back an extra 10 yards.

On first down, Yard scampered for 11 yards. The next play, Yard looked for Bobby McGranor but could not connect.

On third down, Vroman took the ball two yards farther. Bonfardine came out to punt again and booted the ball away. He, however, was hit by a St. Marys' player who was called for the penalty. On fourth and two, Vroman trotted for five and gave the Raiders a first down. Zacherl then carried the ball on first down for a yard.

On second and nine, Yard found tight end Kiefer Gilhousen open on his route, who took the ball 61 yards for the touchdown.

"He's (Gilhousen) special; he's a good kid and very smart. When it's time to practice and play he brings his good attitude in his lunchbox to work everyday," said Dworek.

Yard then kicked the PAT, which put the score at 9-7, St. Marys was still on top.

Yard had a very productive night, completing 5 of 9 passes for 118 yards and a TD. He also rushed for 72 yards, with a one-yard TD carry.

The Dutchmen returned the favor on their next drive. On second down, Cody Baker broke loose for a 30 yard gain. The next play, Feldbauer took the ball up the middle for 17 yards. Feldbauer carried again on the play after for another seven yards. Luchini then took the ball to the five-yard line. Three plays later, Baker pushed the ball one yard for the score. The Raiders then blocked the PAT attempt to keep the score at 15-7.

Brookville didn't score again until the fourth quarter. After a St. Marys' punt, Brookville started its drive from its own 20-yard line.

On first down, Yard stuck to his last name and ran for 40. The next play, Yard tried to run again but St. Marys' Logan Gilmore had other plans and sacked the QB for a loss of two. The following play, Vroman rushed for four in an attempt to erase the damage.

On third down, Yard used his arm again and found an open Gilhousen for a gain of 24. Vroman wasted no time getting the Raiders a new set of downs when he scrambled for 12 on the following play to put Brookville at the three yard line. On first and goal, Vroman pushed the ball two more yards. On second down, Yard pushed the ball the final yard to score the TD.

The Raiders tried for the two-point conversion but were not so fortunate as Yard was sacked in the backfield, keeping the score at 15-13 with St. Marys still clinging the lead.

St. Marys could not push its lead further on the next drive and were forced to punt. On one play, Smith turned the game around for the Raiders.

Smith received the punt on Brookville's own 10-yard line when he ran the ball up the left side of the field 90 yards, and the crowd forgot about the inclement weather and went wild.

Yard tried for another two point conversion but came up short again. Brookville had captured the 19-15 lead with 3:07 left on the clock.

The Dutchmen were desperate for another score and quarterback Alex Coudreit decided to air out the ball. He his first attempt resulted in an incomplete pass. On second down, he looked for another open receiver, but his pass was picked off by Bonfardine.

With time winding down, Brookville once again had possession of the ball. Vroman ran on downs one and two, combing for four yards.

Zacherl took the following carry and pushed the ball another four yards. On fourth and two with 37.9 second remaining, Yard tried to pick up a new set of downs, which would have allowed the Raiders to run out the rest of the clock. He was brought down by the St. Marys "D" a little short of the first down marker.

With 30 second left, the Dutchmen had one last shot at victory. Two plays in a row Coudreit connected with Robbie Glass. With 9.9 seconds remaining, Coudreit bombed a Hail Mary, but the ball was knocked down by the Brookville defense.

Coudreit had one last shot at the Hail Mary but his final pass was again broken up by the Brookville "D", sealing its 19-15 victory.

With the win, the Raiders improved to a 2-1 record.