EDITOR’S NOTE: Information is updated to reflect FAMU DRS’ correct number of appearances in the Final Four, which is two, not one.
MIDDLEBURG, Fla. – For the upstart Middleburg Broncos, the excitement was in the air about hosting the school’s first-ever appearance in the Regional Final against the Tallahassee FAMU DRS Baby Rattlers.
However, for the Broncos (12-1), the youthfulness of the team finally caught up with them as the Baby Rattlers (11-3) completely put in a dominating effort in the second half on Monday night to punch their ticket to their second-ever Final Four on Friday by winning the Class 1A-Region 1 Final.
Things started with the Broncos having the ball to start with but were forced to punt with three minutes already off the clock after stalling out near midfield.
It would not take long, however, for the Broncos defense to step things up when Sam Hardison went up to pick off junior Quarterback Jade Dubose’s pass with 6:45 left in the first quarter to set up great field position for the Broncos. They would capitalize off the turnover a few plays later when junior Quarterback Brooke Swenson found senior Center/Wide Receiver Jewel Taylor from three yards out to put Middleburg up 6-0 with 1:04 left in the first quarter.
The Baby Rattlers took no time to respond back to the Broncos touchdown in the second quarter taking nearly three minutes off the clock, scoring when Dubose found Amerai Logan in the end zone on a 10-yard pass play to tie the game up at 6-6 after the point after attempt failed.
From there it became a defensive battle for the remainder of the second half as Middleburg traded two picks with FAMU, while the Baby Rattlers traded one more back to the Broncos, sending the game into half tied up at 6-6.
However, things started to appear to break open for the Baby Rattlers and it did, as they came marching out in the second half punching the ball in on another Dubose to Logan hook up that put the Baby Rattler up for the first time in the game, 12-6 with 7:12 left in the third quarter.
From there, things began to crumble for the Broncos when freshman linebacker Jaila Young intercepted a Swenson pass returning it for the score from 18 yards out to put the Baby Rattlers up 18-6 with 3:06 left in the third quarter.
At that point, it was all or nothing for the Broncos, who did not give up the entire game in competing, as they tried to advance the ball past midfield after the FAMU DRS touchdown but failed to do so allowing the Baby Rattlers to chew more clock up and scoring again with a connection from Dubose to junior receiver Suraya Wash to put the Baby Rattlers up 24-6 with 8:30 left in the game.
The effort put on by the Baby Rattlers was impressive, but head coach James Brown also had praise for the Broncos being a first-time program in the playoffs.
“One thing I saw about Middleburg, they ran precise patterns and ran a lot of underneath stuff, and if you are not discipline, that can hurt you … so the name of the game is you have to grab flags. And if you cut that stuff off, you are in pretty good shape,” Brown said.
But speed was the name of the game for the Baby Rattlers.
“We started using our speed and athleticism to move away from the screens instead of getting stuck with the screen,” Brown said.
Middleburg would score once more in the game with a Swenson pass to senior receiver Meghan Bonser to cut the deficit to 24-13 with 6:43 left to go, but FAMU DRS topped off the scoring with two minutes to go with another Dubose to Wash pass to put the final score at 31-13 for the Baby Rattlers.
The Baby Rattlers will play against Class 1A-Region 2 winner Jensen Beach (12-6) who smashed Fort Lauderdale Dillard 26-0 on the road Monday night to advance to the FHSAA Flag Football Finals Tournament at Mandarin High in Jacksonville this Friday with a start time at 6:30 p.m.