WATERTOWN – Do your job.
The mantra of the Bobcat football team was on full display Friday night at Watertown Stadium as Brookings came into hostile territory and picked up a 16-0 win over the rival Arrows.
“We’ve been stressing all week – Bobcat pride – and man did the boys play with pride tonight,” Brookings head coach Brady Clark said.
Both teams traded punts on their opening drives. On their second drive, the Bobcats pushed deep into Arrow territory before a fumble gave the ball back to Watertown on their own seven yard line.
Brookings again forced Watertown to punt and started with spectacular field position after Hunter Gray ran back the kick 22 yards, giving Brookings the ball at the Arrows 25.
The Bobcats would gain just three yards before Payton Theodosopoulos trotted out for a 39-yard field goal attempt, however the senior’s kick sailed just right of the uprights and the game remained scoreless.
After picking up eight yards the Arrows again were forced to punt, and after a holding call pushed Brookings back ten yards, the Bobcats would open at their own 20.
Brookings would pick up a first down, but was again forced to kick. The punt was blocked and Watertown would take over at the Brookings 37. The Bobcat defense would again stiffen, forcing an Arrows punt and giving the ball to Brookings at their own 18.
Justin Cofell – making the start at quarterback for an injured Jaxon Bowes – picked up 15 yards to open the drive as the Bobcats methodically moved the ball downfield. After a 15-yard facemask penalty on Watertown was walked off, Brookings had moved inside Arrow territory to the 45.
Brookings would get to the Watertown 28 before the drive stalled out, but Theodosopoulos redeemed his earlier miss, nailing a 45-yard kick through the center of the uprights to give Brookings a 3-0 lead.
The Bobcat defense would again come up big as Josh Devine stepped in front of a Drew Norberg pass and returned it to the Brookings 45. On the first play after the interception, Cofell hooked up with Hunter Gray for a 39-yard catch and run where Gray picked up 32 yards after the catch and the Bobcats had the ball at the Arrows 16 late in the first half.
Theodosopoulos banged through his second field goal of the half, this one from 32 yards, and Brookings carried a 6-0 lead into halftime.
The Bobcats would open the second half with a punt and after taking possession the Arrows would move down to the Brookings 22 before Devine again snared a Norberg pass near the Brookings 20 yard line. He returned the interception 50 yards, setting up the Bobcats with the ball at the Watertown 30 yard line. Brookings could do nothing with the field position and would eventually turn it over on downs after going for it on fourth and 11 at the Arrows 31.
The Bobcat defense stiffened once again and would Brookings would get the ball back after Norberg’s pass fell to the turf on fourth down after going for it from the Brookings 15.
Brookings would again be forced to punt and again, the Bobcat defense provided a spark.
Inside the Brookings 40, Brock Longville corralled Norberg for a sack, and on the next play Tyson Brandt wrapped up Arrows receiver Colin Dingsor in the backfield for a four-yard loss.
Facing third and 22 the Arrows picked up just two yards and again were forced to punt for the sixth time in the game on the opening play of the fourth quarter as Brookings continued to nurse a 6-0 lead.
The Bobcats opening drive of the quarter started poor when a botched handoff forced Cofell to jump on the ball in the backfield and a seven-yard loss.
However, Brandt – who had taken over lead back duties after Gray went down with injury – finally broke a big gain to get the Bobcats out of the shadow of their own goalposts, picking up 35 yards to near midfield.
Brandt would strike again, this time from 37 yards out as he broke free to the endzone just three plays later, providing the Bobcats a much-needed cushion. Theodosopoulos’ kick made it 13-0.
Now down two possessions, Watertown went into a hurry-up offense and quickly moved the ball in chunks, picking up 11, 27, and 22 yards on consecutive plays to move to the Brookings 21.
As was the theme of the night, the Bobcat defense had an answer. Longville picked up his second sack, and on the next play Lincoln Hardin picked off Norberg at the Bobcats two yard line to give the ball back to Brookings with 6:57 to play.
Every time Watertown threatened, Brookings had an answer. Clark said that started with his team swarming to the ball.
“We had 11 guys to the ball, and that’s so big,” Clark said. “Especially as the game goes on and when they can’t get those extra-effort yards because we have guys there, that’s huge.”
On the fifth play after the interception Brandt again gashed the Arrow defense, this time for 66 yards to the Watertown 13. Three plays later Theodosopoulos added his third field goal, this time from 30 yards out, extending the Brookings lead to 16-0 with just 2:50 remaining.
After again claiming the ball on downs, Cofell knelt three times to wrap up the big win.
Brandt ran for 144 yards on just seven carries, giving the Bobcats the boost when Gray was sidelined. Cofell finished the game 11-of-18 for 95 yards and Clark said he did exactly what the team needed him to do.
“Cofell managed the game very well for his first varsity start. No turnovers and looked comfortable for most of the game. Couldn’t be happier with his effort,” Clark said.
Gray picked up 69 yards on five receptions before leaving the game, one of numerous players to go down throughout the game.
“We came up short with guys before the game,” Clark said. “During the game we had some guys go down with injury and cramps because of the humidity, and the kids just filled in, kept playing with pride, kept believing in each other, kept trusting each other.
“All the stuff we’ve been preaching and practicing, and now we see it on the field and the kids see it and go ah-ha, that hard work does pay off. I could not be prouder as a coach tonight.”
Devine picked up seven tackles on defense to go along with his two interceptions, and Longville’s six tackles complemented his two sacks.
Jaxton Eck, Theodosopoulos, and Sam Hardin each recorded five tackles.
Norberg finished 8-of-24 passing for 81 yards and three interceptions for the Arrows.
Juven Hudson posted 109 yards on the ground on 18 carries as the Watertown leading ball carrier.
Brookings (2-1) is back at home on Friday, Sept. 17 as Aberdeen Central visits Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. on parent’s night and teacher appreciation night.