OKEECHOBEE — The Brahmans looked like a team that had to play two physical football games in four days Friday as they defeated upset minded Bayside 42-21 to remain alive in the District 6A-14 race.
Okeechobee had to fight sluggishness, aches and pains, and a lack of mental sharpness as they struggled against a team that has lost 20 games in a row.
“It was a rough week, it wasn’t easy on the kid’s bodies,” coach Chris Branham said.
Okeechobee was forced to play twice in one week due to Hurricane Matthew. The Brahmans handled Westwood 40-0 and Bayside 42-21, but it wasn’t easy.
Okeechobee improved to 5-1 as Bubba Fludd ran for two touchdowns and threw a touchdown pass to Jermaine Moore. Jajuan Cherry added two touchdown runs.
“This is no discredit to Bayside, but I feel we escaped with a 21-point victory,” coach Chris Branham said, “We didn’t execute well. We got beat up front. We were able to get the edge and make somethings happen.”
A balanced offense and a defense that caused four turnovers was the formula used by OHS to get the victory Friday.
“It was a tough week and I know the boys went through a lot this week. We still need work on the intensity and mental aspect of the game. This was a game you have to will yourself through. We were like a car that wouldn’t turn over tonight, like a vehicle with no gas in it,” he said.
Bayside actually scored the opening points after a fumble on the first play from scrimmage. They drove 35 yards in six plays and scored on a fourth and goal from the 1-yard line when quarterback Joel Dorjuste fought his way into the end zone against three would-be tacklers.
Okeechobee was not fazed as they responded with a five-play, 65-yard drive keyed by a 26-yard run by Lamar Williams and a 22-yard pass to Cherry. Bubba Fludd made two tacklers miss on an 8-yard touchdown run to put the Brahmans back in front, 7-6.
Okeechobee would add another 21 unanswered points in the first half as Fludd scored on a 2-yard run, set up by a 51 yard bubble pass from Fludd to Demetrius Clark. Cherry capped a short 31-yard drive set up by a fumble recovery by Tanner Thorntan, with a 10-yard touchdown on a jet sweep to make it 21-6. The Brahmans made it 28-6 just before the half when Fludd threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Moore, who has caught touchdowns in consecutive games. Fludd’s 52-yard pass to Clark on a third and long keyed the touchdown drive.
Moore said it always feels good to win and he thought the team had some intensity. He said they are ready to prepare for the two remaining district games against Eau Gallie, Friday, and Jensen Beach on Oct. 28.
“We weren’t really nervous, just excited. We feel we have the best group of receivers in the area and we have the confidence because we know we can make things happen,” he added.
Bayside tried to make a game of it in the third as they drove 57 yards in 11 plays to score a touchdown on a 2-yard run by Dorjuste. Jaylon Malcolm caught a two point conversion to cut the Brahman lead to 28-14 with plenty of time left in the third quarter.
Thorntan came up with another big play in the fourth as he sacked the Bears quarterback Jordan Mcilvain. Mateo Vasquez recovered at the Bayside 21-yard line. Three plays later the Brahmans scored on a short run by Williams to put the game away, 35-14.
“It was hard to find gaps and holes tonight,” Williams admitted. “It was tough on my body. It was kind of hard for the team to get any energy going.” Williams said he wants to be part of the first playoff team in eight seasons at OHS.
“We have always been a losing team. We have something in front of us that is very special. We have a lot of work left to do,” he added.
Vasquez recovered another fumble later in the fourth quarter inside the Bayside 15-yard line but the Brahmans missed a short field goal.
Okeechobee’s final score came when the Bears failed in a fourth and eight attempt at the 22-yard line. Willliams ran for 14 yards and Cherry ran in another jet sweep to make it 42-14.
The Bears scored in the final minute on a 36-yard touchdown pass from Mcilvain to running back Sheridon Archer.
Coach Branham was happy his team secured their first winning season since 2008. The Brahmans last were 5-1 in 2008 and before that in 1989.
“I don’t know if the kids realize what they’ve accomplished. I don’t know if they really appreciate what it is like to make a playoff game. I want them to have that feeling. We haven’t played our best football game. I think our fans will be amazed if our young men actually played to the best of their ability,” he added.
Eau Gallie defeated Jensen Beach, 31-28, which adds importance to this week’s Homecoming game with the Commodores.
Archer rushed for 75 yards and Kevin Hill caught five passes for 46 yards to the Bears, (0-7). Williams ran for 74 yards and Clark had 103 yards in receptions for the Brahmans. Fludd ran for 75 yards and threw for 144 yards for OHS. Fludd returned an interception 17 yards for Okeechobee. Brahmans with tackles for loss included Joseph Benjamin, who also batted down a pass, Cherry, Bracen Harvey, and Thortan. Andravious Stallworth knocked away a pass for the Brahmans. Decorey James and Jacque Civil had tackles for loss for the Bears. Darnell Jordan and Jamel Malcolm recovered fumbles for Bayside.
Charles M. Murphy is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News