OKEECHOBEE — Turnovers and tough defense were the ingredients used by Okeechobee to win a football game Friday, 17-7 on a night when their vaunted offensive attack was held in check by the aggressive defense of Jensen Beach.
The Brahmans (7-1) had just enough offense, 89 yards passing and 106 rushing, and got rushing touchdowns by Lamar Williams and Antywyn ‘Bubba’ Fludd, along with a field goal by Jarrett Mills to beat the stubborn Falcons for the first time in the past four games.
Jensen Beach (3-5) was led by senior running back Jason Louck who ran for 201 yards and a score. He was basically their offense as they had only 15 other yards in the game.
Okeechobee had some balance in their attack. Fludd ran for 54 yards and a touchdown but also had two long touchdown runs called back by penalty. Williams struggled for each of his 37 yards. Demetrius Clark took advantage of height mismatches as he caught two long passes for 66 yards. His grab in the first quarter set up William’s first touchdown to cap a seven play 80-yard drive. Jensen Beach responded with an 11 play 89-yard drive in the first quarter to tie the score at 7-7.
From there it was all-defense for the second and third quarters as neither team could score. Jensen three times had first and goal near the Brahman end zone. The first time Loucks was stuffed on a fourth and goal at the Brahman five. The second time, the Falcons drove 63 yards until quarterback Hunter East fumbled a snap at the Brahman three. Two plays later the Brahmans fumbled at the 6-yard line but again the defense held forcing a field goal attempt, but Sam Oliver’s 24-yard kick was wide right.
Coach Chris Branham said he was proud of the way the Brahmans responded in the second half.
“It was a little quiet in the locker room at halftime. I told the kids they had me worried that they had stopped believing in themselves. They made plays when they needed to be made. I told them to never stop believing in themselves because each week they prove something to me,” he said.
Okeechobee finally put the game away after they recovered a fumble at the Falcon 8-yard line. Mills kicked a 24-yard field goal to make it 10-7. The final score came when Jensen went for it on fourth down from their 40-yard line and East lost his footing on a scramble. Fludd followed with a 32-yard run to set his own 1-yard touchdown on a third and goal.
“We needed a tough game so we could get woken up and told our season isn’t over yet. Jensen Beach has the number three defense in the area and they displayed that tonight, it was tough to find holes,” Branham added.
Senior Deshon Wellington made several key hits for the Brahman defense after Jajuan Cherry left in the first half with an injury. He said the victory in Jensen meant a lot to him.
“They are a tough team to go against. This is my senior year and to win this game is indescribable,” he said.
Defensive end Tanner Thortan continued his progression as both a run stopper and pass rusher. He noted he came from a high school in Virginia that didn’t emphasize football and this year he’s gotten some quality coaching and instruction. He said they knew Loucks would be a tough assignment.
“We needed to change what we were doing defensively in the second half. We made the corrections and it made a difference,” he added.
Okeechobee ends the regular season at Clewiston next Friday. Coach Branham said he knows his team will be focused and ready.
“It is an important game. If you lose to Clewiston you will be left with an empty feeling. We want the Clewiston game bad. It’ll be two playoff teams hungry for victory,” he added.
Offensive lineman Mike Jones had one of the better blocking nights of the season against the Brahmans.
Brahmans with tackles for loss included Thortan, Bracen Harvey, Jajuan Cherry, Mateo Vasquez three sacks, Nolan Carpenter, Joseph Benjamin, Wellington, Buster Mond and Malcolm Chambers.
Falcons with tackles for loss included Cole Podaras, Keyon Lowery, Loucks, and East. Cherry was hit hard by East late in the second quarter and left the game. He was expected to be healthy for the Clewiston game. Juan’Yae Ford is out for the season with a knee injury.
Charles M. Murphy is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News