A game that seemed like it would be South Boston’s first victory of the season on Saturday morning at White Stadium ended up being first-year Brighton High coach Randolph Abraham’s first non-forfeit victory as a head coach.
Brighton (2-3) overcame three fumbles in the first half and trailed Southie (0-6) by 10 points at halftime before pulling out the 28-22 victory.
“I don’t want to ever not feel this feeling anymore fellas, this is better than anything,” Abraham told his team. “This is why you guys work hard.”
Abraham, who was offensive coordinator for long-time Bengals’ coach, James Philip, since 2004, got a win in Week 1 after Boston English forfeited. As it turned out, Philip came out of retirement for the week to help coach Brighton because running backs coach Renel Jean’s father died.
“He told me last night as he was at the wake, he said coach ‘Win this game, win this game, focus on that, tell those boys to keep their head in the game,’ ” Abraham told his team. “I said, ‘we’re going to do everything in our power to win this game.’
“I know this week coach Phil came back and helped us out, and it felt like old times, I’m not going to lie, it felt great having him there. It felt like that focus and that fire and that seriousness came back. But he’s not always going to be here fellas. He’s retired, he’s not going to be back.”
Trailing 22-12 at halftime, Brighton shut out Southie in the second half while scoring on the Knights twice.
“We came out desperate for a win and once we got up we relaxed like we got what we wanted, got what we came for and relaxed,” Southie coach Sean Guthrie said. “And it’s hard to switch that switch back down once you’ve already flipped it.”
First, junior quarterback Jalen Apperwhite hit senior wide receiver Malique Holley for a 7-yard TD before senior running back Ricardo Edwards ran in the 2-point conversion to make the score 22-20 with 2:28 left in the third quarter.
Then, after Brighton forced South Boston to punt twice, Edwards scored on a 4-yard run with 24.3 seconds left in the game. Holley caught the 2-point conversion pass to secure the win.
Apperwhite (8 of 15 passing for 109 yards) completed two third-down passes on the winning drive, including an 8-yard pass to senior wide receiver Damian Robinson and a 20-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Michael Dereus that put Brighton on the 4-yard line.
Most importantly, the drive served as some redemption for Edwards’ two first-half fumbles.
“I felt like I was letting my team down, I felt like wasn’t doing something right,” Edwards said. “I felt like what my coach did was right, taking me out and letting my other teammate (Chris Desanero) take my place.”
But while Edwards only had 13-yards rushing on the day, he was a terror at linebacker.
“The fourth quarter came and our defense stepped it up,” he said before talking about his touchdown. “It felt very good. I was shocked, I didn’t know I was going to make that corner that quick but somehow I put my foot in.”
In the first half, two of Brighton’s fumbles led to touchdowns by Southie senior quarterback/running back Sean Hunter, who ran a 21-yard TD into the end zone with 2:41 left in the opening quarter before running a 20-yarder in with 9:03 left in the half.
The Bengals cut it to 14-6 after the Knight’s onside kick was returned 60 yards for a touchdown my sophomore wide receiver Michael Dereus with 8:51 left in the half.
“I just wanted to give my teammates a chance to score and to lift our head up so I saw the hole and ran to the house,” Dereus said.
Brighton’s final fumble of the half set up South Boston junior wide receiver Pannel Davis’ 21-yard run that brought the Knights down to the 4-yard line. Two plays later he ran the rest of the way for a touchdown with 4:01 left in the half.
Then Robinson caught a 48-yard slant pass that put the Bengals on the 15 before he caught a 1-yard TD to go into the locker room down 22-12.
“I’m really proud of my kids,” Abraham said. “I was telling them that I was holding back tears … this year is not going to be easy to be the best team that we can be.”
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