By: Dan Stickradt
FOOTBALL: Burke’s boot lifts Brandon past Avondale
BY DAN STICKRADT
AUBURN HILLS — Brandon Burke must have had ice in his veins Friday night.
The Ortonville Brandon senior drilled a 25-yard field goal as time expired, leading the visiting Blackhawks to a thrilling, 45-44, triumph over host Auburn Hills Avondale in a Division 3 pre-district.
The soccer player said he felt like he was in a shootout, with all eyes on him with 1.8 ticks left as he lined up. Fighting through nerves, he drilled the game-winning boot for three points that gave the Blackhawks their first postseason win since 2000.
“We hadn’t attempted a field goal except for practice all year, so I was very nervous, kind of like being in a shootout,” admitted Burke. “I was so relieved when it went in. I just had to make it to help my team win.”
Avondale dropped a pass in the end zone, and had to settle for Jake de Beor’s 22-yard field goal with 2:38 left in the fourth quarter. Those three points gave the Yellowjackets a short-lived 44-42 advantage.
Brandon responded with a 10-play, 67-yard drive that ended with Burke’s heroics.
“It’s hard to turn the ball over seven times and figure out a way to win,” noted Brandon coach Brad Zube. “We liked our game plan and liked the way we were scoring tonight. It was a matter of executing. We spotted then like 35 points. Proud of my kids for coming back. We pulled it out somehow. This was our first playoffs win in 17 years. And what a kick by Burke. He came through for us at the end.”
Played under a constant rain and sub 40-degree temperatures, Brandon overcame seven turnovers — four fumbles and three interceptions — in the contest.
Avondale, making its first postseason appearance since 2012, built a stunning 35-21 lead at halftime despite being outgunned 265-83 on total-yards-offense in the first half.
Brandon had five fumbles in the first half, four which the Blackhawks lost, and Avondale turned those four turnovers into scores.
Up by 14 at the break, Avondale took a 41-21 advantage on Adam Mather’s 2-yard plunge with 7:26 remaining in the third quarter.
Sincere Perkins led Brandon with 17 carries for 288 yards with two touchdowns, while Clay Deboer added 20 rushes for 188 yards and two more touchdowns for the Blackhawks, who had to come back twice in the contest.
Brandon clawed back into the contest on Deboer’s 4-yard run, an 85-yard rush by Perkins and Deboer’s 21-yard sprint which gave the Blackhawks their first lead at 42-41 with 11:52 to play.
Derrick Hinton’s scored on a 36-yard run, Ryan Grosz had an 11-yard fumble recovery for Avondale’s second touchdown, and Anthony Moran scored on runs of 4, 2, and 6 yards in the second quarter in helping the Yellow Jackets build their first-half lead.
Avondale misfired on a 35-yard field goal in the first half, while the Yellow Jackets’ deBeor had an extra point blocked on his team’s sixth touchdown, which proved to be costly.
“We had a hard time stopping their fullback, and we were fortunate enough to get those turnovers,” said Avondale coach Edward Couturier. “(In the second half) we came down and had an opportunity on the dropped pass in the end zone and we had to settle for the field goal. They come down with 1.8 seconds left — we tried to freeze him, but give the kid credit, he nailed it.”
Josh Manfroni (3-yard run), Perkins (4-yard run) and Manfroni’s 29-yard TD reception following a flea-flicker and pass from Matthew Harrison accounted for Brandon’s first-half scores.
Hinton, Grosz, Isiah Lane and Trevor Grosz all recovered fumbles, while Nick Whiteside, Trevor Grosz and Joey Hawkins recorded interceptions for Avondale (7-3), which won seven of its final nine ballgames.
Moran led the Yellow Jackets with 75 yards on 14 carries, while Hinton added 72 yards on 10 rushes.
“I’m proud of these guys. They did everything we asked of them all season long. We went down to the wire in this game and came up just short,” said Couturier. “This was (an entertaining) high school football game. We just came up short.”