MIDDLEBURG, Fla. – On Tuesday night, the Middleburg Broncos hosted the Clay Blue Devils to open up the Class 1A regional quarterfinals in Region 1 as the top overall seed as determined by the FHSAA power rankings and being a district champion.
With it being the third time facing their most fierce rival in flag football with the Blue Devils, Middleburg was able to come out on top with a 27-7 victory at Alan Powers Field on the campus of Middleburg High, and here are some takeaways from the victory:
SWENSON HAS COME FULL CIRCLE IN A YEARLeading the team to a district championship and a regional playoff berth was the goal last year for the Broncos and quarterback Brooke Swenson, who was a junior that year, was just getting started after leading them to their first playoff win and finishing the 2021 season with a 12-1 overall record after falling to eventual Class 1A State Runner-up Tallahassee FAMU DRS.
Now coming full circle, Swenson has been nothing but phenomenal for the Broncos this year.
Entering the season back in March, Swenson was not even on the radar of college flag football programs, having held no offers, and Swenson told FloridaHSFootball.com that this was it for her in playing sports as she was preparing for what life would be like in getting ready for college.
However, in just two months’ time that has all changed for Swenson.
Swenson is now holding multiple offers to play flag football including Bryant & Stanton College in Wisconsin which was her first official offer as well holding an offer from Warner University in Lake Wales which is led by head coach Tim Mimbs who was an assistant for many years with Tampa Robinson
I’m so excited to recieve my first official offer to play Woman’s Flag Football at Bryant & Stratton College, WI. Thank you Coach Jared for offering me the amazing opportunity to play for your school @BSCFlagFootball @Broncos_Sports @martinaftuck @oneclaysports @CoachSgromolo pic.twitter.com/4qnLwViitX
— Brooke Swenson (@BrookeSwenson17) April 19, 2022
@BrookeSwenson17 & I would like to say how blessed she feels receiving her 4th offer from Coach Mimbs @warnerflag to play Flag Football @ the next level @ Warner University. Thank you for giving Brooke this opportunity @Broncos_Sports @martinaftuck @CoachSgromolo @oneclaysports pic.twitter.com/G6526icDAQ
— Amy Swenson (@AmyJoSwenson17) April 24, 2022
Entering the regional playoffs Swenson had thrown for over 1,500 yards on the season along with 40-plus touchdowns just only a couple of interceptions.
And she didn’t disappoint on Tuesday night.
On the first play of the first drive for the Broncos, Swenson helped set the tone and send a message to Clay that it would be tough to find a way to pull the upset when she found Brandy Mann for a 41 touchdown pass with 7:55 left in the first quarter. Swenson would convert the extra point to make it 7-0.It wouldn’t take long for the Broncos’ stout defense to get the ball back into the hands of Swenson after a punt from Clay on the first drive led to the touchdown with Juliana White intercepting a Dakota Hills pass at the Clay 30 that would be returned to the 12-yard line to set up a 12-yard pass from Swenson to Jaden Lopresti with 2:00 to go in the first quarter.
Swenson’s third score of the night, which would come on the ground was set up late in the second quarter when Laura Palagyi intercepted a pass from Hills inside Clay’s own 20 and returned it to the 1 that would set up a one-yard touchdown up the middle with 2:25 left.Swenson’s last score that would seal the win for the Broncos came early in the fourth quarter on the drive would come off the Broncos’ biggest defense stand of the night that would be aided in back-to-back offside penalties on fourth around midfield by Clay when she found Mann for their second connection of the night from 5 yards out to make the score 27-7 with 9:39 left in the game that would effectively put the game out of reach for the Blue Devils at that point.
DEFENSE HAS COME A LONG WAY AS WELL
Middleburg’s defense which was porous at times last year including the playoffs was pretty much a stronghold for the team, helping create some of the best situations for scoring on the night or not letting Clay have their way except for one busted play that allowed Hills to score from 66 yards that came after Middleburg had gone up 20-0 late in the second quarter.
Desiree Hall, one of the top rushers in the Northeast Florida area this season has accounted for several sacks while White and Palagyi each accounted for an interception which would set up the Broncos with two of their four scoring touchdowns on the night.
One of the biggest defense stands of the night came early in the third quarter after Swenson’s past was intercepted after the ball which had appeared to hit the ground initially had bounced up and landed in a Clay defender’s hands.Following some unusual penalties for the Broncos who have not seen many penalties this season, which was one of the key improvements made by head coach Jay Stilianou, that put Clay inside the red zone, the Broncos forced Hills into some incomplete passes that would be further defined with a Jasmine Hartson sack on third and goal leading to one more incomplete pass from Hills with 5:25 left in the quarter to lead to a turnover on downs.
After that, the Broncos’ defense would not allow Clay to get near the end zone again for the rest of the game to help mercy rule the game at the 19-point differential with two minutes to go including holding the ball for the final six minutes of the game.
CULTURE CHANGE AT MIDDLEBURG
Middleburg has seen a culture shift since the team won their first district championship last season with other programs from tackle football having its first non-losing season since 2003 to baseball and softball finding playoff paths and other sports in between.
You can hear more from Stilianou about that along with his thoughts on the game and Swenson’s performance in the video below:
Middleburg (15-0) being the No. 1 seed in Region 1 in Class 1A will be at home again on Thursday night as they take on No. 5 Tallahassee FAMU DRS (10-2) who defeated No. 4 Live Oak Suwanee on Tuesday night. Game time is slated for 7 p.m. ET.
M: Brooke Swenson 41 pass to Brandy Mann (Swenson PAT to Kayleigh McWatters good)
M: Swenson 12 pass to Jaden Lopresti (Swenson PAT to Mann good)
M: Swenson 1 run (PAT failed)
C: Dakota Hills 66 run (PAT good)
M: Swenson 5 pass to Mann (Swenson PAT good)