BROOKINGS – Aberdeen Central made the trip to Brookings Friday night, looking to move their season record to 4-0 on the year.
After scoring on their first drive and forcing the Bobcats into a three-and-out, the Golden Eagles seemed to be making an early statement.
However, the Brookings defense said – in their best Lee Corso voice, “not so fast, my friend,” pitching a shutout the remainder of the game, while the offense scored 30 unanswered points in a 30-7 win at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.
“We came out kind of flat to start. They scored right away, we answered, and then we took advantage of some opportunities and left it all on the field,” said Brookings head coach Brady Clark.
Aberdeen Central went up 7-0 on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Sam Rohlfs to Collin Huff. The play capped off a seven play, eighty-yard drive, and after the PAT the Golden Eagles had an early lead.
Each team punted on their next possesions.
Starting at their own 39, Brookings marched 61 yards in 12 plays. A pair of runs by Hunter Gray of 13 and 11 yards put the Bobcats at the Aberdeen Central 11-yard line. Gray would score on the next play, but a holding penalty pushed Brookings back to the 21 and first down and twenty.
Tyson Brandt’s run for eight gained back most of the penalty yardage, and Gray would then scamper to the two-yard line. Justin Cofell, making his second start in place of injured senior quarterback Jaxon Bowes, called his own number, scoring from two yards out. Payton Theodosopoulos’ kick knotted the score at seven.
Pinned inside their own 20 after a short return, Aberdeen Central’s back-to-back false starts move them back to the six-yard line, and those penalties proved costly.
On second and 20, Rohlfs could do nothing but step out the back of the end zone when the snap from center sailed over his head. The resulting safety gave Brookings a 9-7 lead just 21 seconds into the second quarter.
The Bobcats would punt on their next drive, but would get great field position after Jaxton Eck and Caleb Loehr combined to take down Rohlfs for a three-yard loss on fourth and three from midfield.
Brookings would capitalize when Cofell hit Cole McKeown for a 30-yard gain on the sideline off a tipped pass that McKeown snagged before it drifted out of bounds. Two plays later, Jackson Hoffmann’s 13-yard touchdown reception and Theodosopoulos’ kick opened a 16-7 lead for Brookings. A lead they would take into halftime.
With the lead, the Bobcat rushing game took over to start the second half.
Neither team scored on their first drives of the second half.
Brookings then went on a debilitating 15-play, 84-yard drive that milked 7:44 off the clock, punctuated by a 12-yard rushing score from Gray, and after the extra point Brookings led 23-7.
Back with the ball and facing third and 21, with the crowd at full throat, Eric Dang tipped away an Aberdeen pass in the endzone, and on fourth down, Sam Hardin’s breakup gave Brookings the ball back at their own 45.
Fittingly, the rushing attack sealed the game, shredding a gassed Eagles defense. Brandt picked up 30 yards, followed by 20 more from Gray. Two plays later it was 30-7 after Gray’s second score and Theodosopoulos’ kick accounting for the final margin.
“This was a big test tonight, to see where we’re at,” Clark said. “After week one, we’re definitely moving in the right direction.”
Brookings did not attempt a pass in the second half, putting the ball on the ground for all 25 offensive plays.
“Our line, opening holes, and tough running by our backs. We’ve been waiting to see it,” added Clark.
After giving up 80 yards on the opening drive and subsequent touchdown, the Bobcat defense put the clamps on the Golden Eagles, holding them to just 86 yards the remainder of the game.
“Defensively, holy cow they’ve been playing fantastic,” Clark said. “Once we got [Aberdeen Central] figured out, it’s just trusting each other. Our front line – on both sides of the ball – kept working and working.”
Brookings rolled up 258 yards rushing to just 49 yards on the ground for Aberdeen, holding a nearly eight-minute advantage in time of possession.
The Bobcats nearly had two backs eclipse 100 yards on the ground. Brandt picked up 101 yards on 16 carries, while Gray added 96 on 12 attempts, finding the end zone twice.
Cofell attempted just six passes all night, picking up 57 yards on four completions with the one touchdown to Hoffmann.
“Cofell, again, just managed the game so well,” Clark said.
Josh Devine had seven tackles on defense, while Eck came in with six. Loehr had an 11-yard sack as well as four tackles.
Rohlfs completed 11-of-20 passes for 134 yards for Aberdeen Central. Karson Carda picked up 41 yards on the ground on 13 attempts. The Eagles’ Alec Voegele made six receptions for 50 yards.
Brookings, on a three-game winning streak, moved its season record to 3-1. The Bobcats are back home again next week as the Mitchell Kernels come to Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium. Kickoff for the Bobcats and Kernels on Brookings Homecoming is set for 7 p.m.