MIDDLEBURG, Fla. – For both host Middleburg and visiting FAMU DRS out of Tallahassee, both teams knew each other when they met up on Alan Powers Field on the campus of Middleburg High.
Matter of fact, for the Broncos the taste of last year’s 31-13 loss was still there on the mind of the team, but this time they knew what the mission was and that was to be better than last year’s team that grew frustrated in that loss to the Baby Rattlers in 2021 and instead show the Baby Rattlers they were a much improved and polished team – and sure enough, they did.
Using a dominating defensive effort for 47 of the 48 minutes played, Middleburg held FAMU DRS scoreless with the Baby Rattlers in a 14-6 dominating victory that was by no means as close as the score otherwise indicates.
Here are our takeaways from the action which provides a tale of two halves:
POINTS LEFT ON THE FIELD AS DEFENSES BEND BUT DON’T BREAK
Middleburg started off the game with the ball first to get things going and the drive showed promise on the first two plays getting a first down out of the 30, but an illegal block in the back coupled with a sack by the FAMU defense sent the Broncos backwards.
However, as quickly as Middleburg punted the ball back that saw the Baby Rattlers start at the Middleburg 37 quickly saw Jade DuBose swing out to get the ball in the hands of Makel Montgomery down to the 27 of Middleburg looking to try to strike first.
At the end of that drive, Middleburg would force DuBose into two more incomplete passes leading to a turnover on downs.
The first instance of Middleburg leaving points on the field came with just a couple of minutes left in the first quarter after Middleburg started at their own 27 and saw Broncos quarterback Brooke Swenson involve in getting the ball out to Kayleigh McWatters and Laura Palagyi leading them down to the FAMU DRS two-yard line.
However, with it being fourth-and-goal for the Broncos, a bad snap resulted in the ball falling out of Swenson’s hands back at the Baby Rattlers’ 11-yard line, leaving points off the board.
FAMU’s next possession would almost go nowhere after just one first down when Desiree Hall who is only a sophomore got into the backfield to sack DuBose to force a punt with about 9:45 left in the first half.
As the rest of the first half went on, it was pretty much a defensive battle between both the Broncos and the Baby Rattlers with FAMU DRS’s deepest possession coming off a turnover on downs by Middleburg when Swenson was sacked on a fourth-down play.
That drive for the Baby Rattlers saw them get all the way down to the Middleburg 25-yard line before three incomplete passes forced by the Broncos defense on DuBose put the ball back into the hands of the Broncos.
With not much going, the Broncos punted the ball back with just seconds left to go in the first half leaving the door open for FAMU DRS to make a couple of plays. However, Brandy Mann would step in front of DuBose’s pass to intercept it to make it 0-0 at the half.
BRONCOS PULL TOGETHER TO DOMINATE THE SECOND HALF
With FAMU DRS getting the ball to start the second half, the Broncos knew the defense was going to be critical to making a statement fast to get the Baby Rattlers off the field, but it did not appear it would come at east at first after Dubose completed two straight passes to get out to their own 30.
However, with the combination of Hall getting constantly in the face of DeBuose while Palagyi stayed on top of Ameari Logan who is seen as the Baby Rattlers’ best player all-around, frustration was starting to mount as four straight incomplete passes that would give Middleburg their best starting field position of the night at the FAMU DRS 30.
That great field position would be all for naught as Swenson quickly launched a pass that appeared to be a bad read that went right into the hands of DuBose who intercepted it and returned to where FAMU DRS has just turned it over at.
And it appeared that the Baby Rattlers were poised to capitalize on the Broncos’ turnover as DuBose threw three straight completions to get things down to the Middleburg 25 before Hall would nab a sack on DuBose who had hesitated on third down around the Middleburg 35.
That sack become a motivation for FAMU DRS to get the first down when DuBose got to Logan to get it out to the Middleburg eight-yard line, but the pressures of the Middleburg defense came swarming in when a run by Daria Longley went nowhere that ended up forcing DuBose into three straight incomplete passes leading to a turnover on downs.
With things rolling into the fourth quarter and the Broncos in possession of the ball, getting a score was becoming a sense of urgency, however as things had been in the game, it wasn’t going to come easy, but it appears that the Baby Rattlers were starting to get tired.
On an important third down at the Middleburg 10, Swenson found Cheyenne Jenkins at the Broncos’ 22 to get the first down, but FAMU DRS was flagged for holding to put the Broncos out to their own 36 and near midfield which Swenson would find Palagyi in the flats to get the ball down to the FAMU DRS 30.
However, a couple of penalties later in the drive threatened to be potential drive enders for the Broncos, something that has not been seen often during the season, but with just over a minute and a half into the fourth quarter, Swenson would find Kelsey Harrelson from five yards out for the first score of the night to put the Broncos up 7-0.
FAMU DRS would get the ball back with 9:25 left on the clock getting a first down in the process to get things out towards midfield before four straight incomplete passes would sputter things out once again for the Baby Rattlers, leaving them even more frustrated.
With the ball back in possession, Swenson started to work things from the FAMU DRS 39, hitting Harrelson for a nine-yard pass to get out to the 30, but it would be on third down that Swenson would connect with Juliana White to get the ball out to the FAMU DRS 15-yard line with Swenson rushing on first and goal all the way to the three-yard line.
A sack on second down appeared to put a scoring drive on ice when the Baby Rattlers got in and sacked Swenson back at the 10 forcing Swenson to the air on third and fourth downs finding White to get the back to the two-yard line before finding Jenkins in the endzone on a two-yard reception to get the score to 14-0 with just two minutes left on the clock, effectively putting the game out of reach for FAMU DRS who had only two timeouts left at that moment.
With FAMU DRS still wanting to be in the game as much as possible DuBose would find Longley from two years out for the score just 1:03 off the remaining two minutes to make it 14-6 with the Broncos forcing an incomplete pass on the point-after try.
And with no way to get the ball back, the Broncos ran one play before taking the knee down to seal the victory and punching their second straight ticket to the regional finals.
REWARDS OF THE WORK
The rewards of the work put in during the game came just one night after Broncos head coach Jay Stilianou along with Swenson, Palagyi, and Hall were among those recognized as part of the first-ever Jacksonville Jaguars PREP Girls Flag Football All-Prep Team with Stilianou taking home Coach of the Year awards and Swenson earning Player of the Year awards.
Listen to Stilianou, Swenson, Palagyi, and Hall all talk about the game and the experiences here:
M Brooke Swenson 5 pass to Kelsey Harrelson (PAT rush by Palagyi)
M Swenson 2 pass to Cheyenne Jenkins (Swenson PAT)
F Jade DuBose 2 pass to Amerai Logan (PAT failed)