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Saturday October 31, 2020
Braves Can't Overcome Mistakes, Lose Wild Game

KINGSFORD---The Gladstone Braves and Kingsford Flivvers traded big plays, and mistakes, before the Flivvers eeked out a 30-28 win over the Braves in a highly-entertaining game Friday night in Kingsford.

The game wasn't until the final minute, when Braves scored a touchdown on a trick play, had a bad snap on the game-tying two-point conversion play, got an on-side kick, and finally had a high pass intercepted deep in Kingsford territory. Yep, it was that kind of night.

In all, the Braves turned the ball over six times, including two muffed punts, and that doesn't include the multiple snaps that hit the ground at the feet of quarterback Cam Kelly. But Gladstone kept battling, finishing a down-to-the-wire contest for the third straight week.

"In spite of all of the sloppiness that we had, the thing that defines this team that you saw come through here is that they just don't quit," Gladstone Coach Jeff Hansen said. "They just kept coming. No matter how the small window for 'pulling it out' is, they keep charging at it no matter what. We had no business still being in that game, honestly, as poorly as we played when it came to turnovers. I was down to literally drawing plays on my hand at the end."

He drew up, on his hand, a double-pass from Kelly, to Cam Ballard, who threw deep to Caden Downey for a 41-yard touchdown with 33 seconds left in the game, to bring Gladstone to within 30-28 on the scoreboard. It was Downey's third touchdown catch of the night, with the others coming from Kelly on a 25-yard tipped ball, and on a sweet 56-yard strike.

The double pass fooled the Flivvers, and Downey was as wide open as it gets.

"We never ran that in practice," Downey said. "That was just right off the spot. Somehow it worked out, though. The corner collapsed down on Cam on the pitch, and he just threw it right over the top."

The Braves needed a two-point conversion to tie it and potentially send it to overtime. But Kelly never had a chance, as the low snap continued to bite the Braves. This one hit the ground and Kelly was swarmed over, effectively ending the game, right? Wrong.

Kingsford was called for a personal foul hit on Kelly, so that meant Lucas Hughes tried an on-side kick from the Flivver 45. He got the perfect hop he needed, and the Braves recovered in front of their own bench at the 30 yard-line with 29 seconds left on the clock.

But after a four-yard run moved the Braves to the 26, Kelly's pass was intercepted by Nolan LaVarnaway. And one kneel-down later, Kingsford escaped with a wild victory.

"Wow, what a tough game, eh?" Downey said. "That was a tough game. Just a battle. Two really good teams just working hard, trying to get the win."

In the first half, Kingsford's superiority in special teams was obvious, as kicker Diego Przeslakowski made two extra point kicks and a 24-yard field goal as the first half ended. Several times, the Flivvers punted the Braves deep, with Kingsford routinely starting offense in prime field position, and Gladstone starting inside their own 30 yard-line.

Kingsford scored first on an eleven-yard touchdown run by Carter Kreski, but the Braves responded when Kelly found Ballard in a toght window between the hash marks for a 55-yard touchdown pass. Kelly's two-point run made it 8-7.

The Flivvers responded to that with a dump-off pass to Zach Person, who broke multiple tackles for a 68-yard touchdown that gave the Flivvers a 14-8 lead. Przeslakowski's field goal was set up by another third down play: as Chris Carollo hauled in a 28-yard pass.

In the third quarter, the Braves first possession ended on a Brody Kopp interception, but the defense continued to force three-and-out possessions. Finally, midway through the quarter, Kelly found Downey for a 25-yard touchdown as the ball bounced right to him in the end zone off the hands of a Kingsford player.

"It felt like it was in slow motion," Downey said. "I just squeezed it in and went with it."

Kelly ran in the two-point run from eleven yards out after the Braves were called for holding on another two-point run. Still, Gladstone was within 17-16.

Kingsford took advantage of a nine-yard Braves punt (the second one of that distance on the night), and drobe to the Gladstone 12 yard-line. But the defense stiffened on 4th and 4.

Gladstone got the ball back with 8:19 to play and it looked good when Kelly broke free for a 32-yard run to get the Braves some field position. But two plays later, Kelly was sacked, fumbled the ball, and Kingsford recovered 14 yards behind the line of scrimmage.

They cashed in on a 4th-and-3 touchdown pass from Mike Meneguzzo to Hunter Bilgreen in the back of the end zone, and after the extra point kick, Kingsford led, 24-16.

Gladstone had the answer, as Kelly found Ballard for a 25-yard pass, and then passed to a wide open Downey for a 56-yard touchdown with 3:45 to play, cutting the deficit to 24-22. The two-point run to tie the game, however, was stopped about a yard shy of the goal line.

The Braves forced a three-and-out defensively, but the punt was muffed, and the fumble gave Kingsford the ball at the Braves 27.

Two plays later, Caleb Boone scored from 12 yards out, giving Kingsford the 30-22 lead. If Przeslakowski had pounded through the extra point like he normally does, but he hooked it to the left. That kept the Braves alive, and set up the wild finish.

"We just hung in there, but we came up a little bit short," Hansen said. "It was a heck of a football game here tonight."

Kingsford improved to 3-1 on the season (1-1 Great Northern Conference). The Braves fell to 2-1 and 0-1, with their third straight game decided by exactly two points.

Click the thumbnails in the ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS box above to see photos and videos, and the AUDIO buttons to hear post-game comments from Hansen and Downey. Also, click the AUDIO buttons to hear player spotlight interviews with Braves seniors Joe Borman and Zac Brazeau.









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