The story behind the story of the Hilliard Bradley High School football team taking another step in its development occurred Sept. 6 when senior center Jared Rolan pulled out on the final play of practice and went down in a heap with a season-ending knee injury.
The coaching staff, with the hours ticking off before kickoff against Hilliard Davidson, moved sophomore right tackle Jacob Curl to center and nose guard Noah Lance to Curl’s old spot.
“That injury was a freak thing, and the kids were shaken about it for a couple of days,” Jaguars coach Mike LoParo said. “That was tough sledding and I’m proud of those guys for making it work. Those two didn’t have any practice at those positions.”
Behind senior quarterback Josh Stewart completing 12 of 17 passes for 192 yards and one touchdown and running for a score, Bradley methodically defeated Davidson 28-10 before a near capacity crowd Sept. 8 at Bradley.
It was the second straight season that the Jaguars (3-0), the youngster of the Hilliard school system after opening in 2009, defeated the Wildcats (1-2).
Stewart said the team’s rise — it made the playoffs for the first time last season — is a tribute to the coaching staff. LoParo is in his seventh season.
“This shows who we are as a program and our coaching,” Stewart said. “We have an all-star lineup of coaches. This is a testament to them how far this program has come. This team has huge drive — our motivation is through the roof.”
The Jaguars scored on their first possession when Grant Buehl ran 6 yards for a touchdown to end an 11-play, 85-yard drive. Daevon Anderson provided the key plays on the drive with two 29-yard receptions, the second on third-and-6 to the 7-yard line.
Bradley took command when Stewart ran 1 yard for a touchdown with 8 minutes, 18 seconds left in the second quarter to cap a 65-yard drive, and on a 14-yard run by Jack Richards with 6:49 left in the third quarter for a 21-7 lead.
The clincher was a picture-perfect, 27-yard touchdown catch by Kody Thompson on a fade on fourth-and-4 with 9:14 left to play.
“That play actually was put in this week because we knew it would work,” Thompson said. “Josh trusted me on that one. We worked a lot on our focus and timing all week. We wanted to be able to run pinpoint routes.”
LoParo was proud of the effort.
“When we took this job — and I say ‘we’ because it’s all of us — it was a plan like Brian has,” he said of Davidson coach Brian White. “Brian is a hall of famer. That team is so physical and they just pound at you. It takes a long time to fight fire with fire. We’re getting there.”
==========Team 1 2 3 4 Final HILLIARD DAVIDSON 0 7 3 0 10 HILLIARD BRADLEY
7 7 7 7 28