YORK—Bruton's special-teams unit couldn't have done much more against Grafton on Friday night.
The Panthers began the night by blocking an extra-point attempt in the first quarter, then sealed a 7-6 win when Michael Wilson blocked a 35-yard field-goal attempt with a little more than a minute left in the game.
Bruton assistant coach Terrence Johnson "always preaches that special teams win games, but I guess I never really believed it until tonight," said senior Lorenzo Taliaferro. "Before the field goal, we just talked about nobody being greedy, all of us rushing as hard as we could, and Mike (Wilson) got there first.
"This is a pretty big win for us, and everyone is excited. It was tough, but we did our job tonight and now we have a chance to take over the district."
Taliaferro blocked the extra-point attempt in the first quarter, carried the ball 19 times for 70 yards and made four tackles.
Yet for all Bruton (2-0, 1-0 Bay Rivers District) could claim credit for at the end of the night, Grafton's case of fumble-itis played an even bigger role. The Clippers (1-2, 1-1) put the ball on the ground five times, losing four.
One of those led to Bruton's only touchdown of the game.
Bruton recovered a Grafton fumble on the Clippers' 40-yard line. Two plays later, DeAndre Parker made a spectacular catch on a Greg Walker lob. Bracketed by two defenders, Parker leaped into the air, tipped the ball, then stayed on his feet long enough to grab the ball and prance into the end zone, leaving the Clipper defenders lying on the ground just outside of the end zone.
"You can't win a game when you fumble the ball five times and turn it over five times overall," Grafton coach Kevin Montini said. "Our defense played well, the offensive line played well. We just gave this game away. We had a horrible week of practice and four starters out, yet we still had a chance to win on a play we practice every day. We just didn't get it done."
Other than Grafton's first scoring drive, capped by Austin Sneath's 5-yard run, it was Bruton that seemed in control in the first half. But the Panthers shot themselves in the foot each time they got something going, with penalties killing two drives. They were flagged seven times for 35 yards in the first half.
"We have a young team, and those mistakes tonight are proof of that," said Bruton coach Tracy Harrod. "We really seemed to come together in the second half, and I'm proud of the way these guys kept in this game the entire time. They never gave up, and that blocked kick showed that all our hard work this summer may be paying off in a group of players who know that it takes a lot of work and a complete game to win.
"Did I expect us to be 2-0? I did because, while I may be new to this district and not know a lot about these teams, I always expect us to win. The only way you can do this is to make the players believe that, too."
BRUTON 7, GRAFTON 6
|Bruton||0070 — 7|
|Grafton||6000 — 6|
B — Parker 35 pass from Walker (Taliaferro kick)