Grinding through

Jeff Stead/PrepsKC

By Dave McQueen PrepsKC staff writer
Posted: October 27, 2018 - 9:18 AM

The problem for Pleasant Hill early on was simple, yet confounding: The Roosters couldn’t get their hands on the ball.

Center spent the first half of the Class 3 District 7 matchup Friday night playing keep-away with a grind-it-out offense that didn’t result in touchdowns but did gobble up time. As it turned out, the Yellowjackets could have used the points too.

Because once Pleasant Hill got the ball, the Roosters were able to take control with three touchdown passes from quarterback Blake Atkins to wide receiver Wyatt Bramwell and roll to a 32-14 victory at Center.

Pleasant Hill (8-2) will get another crack at top-ranked MRVC West rival Odessa Nov. 2 in the district semifinals. And the Roosters earned that shot by stopping Center when it needed to and taking advantage of the limited opportunities they had.

“They did a good job of controlling the football,” Pleasant Hill coach Greg Smith said. “Drives were at a premium; possessions were at a premium. Hats off to them for a good game plan.”

Center took the opening kickoff and ran off nearly eight minutes on a 16-play, 66-yard march. All the yards came on the ground in the Yellowjackets’ multi-back offense. The drive stalled on the Roosters’ 3-yard line after a holding call, and Center’s Ethan Robertson kicked a 34-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.

Center went on the march again early in the second quarter, but another holding penalty backed up the Yellowjackets after they had made it to the Pleasant Hill 6. Robertson kicked another field goal, a 35-yarder, and all the Yellowjackets had to show for the two long drives was a 6-3 lead.

“We got inside the 10 and got those penalties,” Center coach Bryan DeLong said. “Getting six points instead of 14 when we were moving the ball … that was tough.”

Pleasant Hill’s offense started to click late in the second quarter, when Atkins completed five consecutive passes to set up his first TD pass to Bramwell on a 5-yard strike. That gave the Roosters a 10-6 lead at the half the Roosters would never relinquish.

Atkins struck quickly in the second half, tossing a 27-yarder over the middle to Bramwell for his second TD and an 18-6 lead after a swinging gate two-point conversion. His third hookup with Bramwell, a 10-yarder that put the Roosters up 25-6, capped a 12-play, 95-yard drive in the fourth quarter.

“He’s my childhood buddy,” Atkins said of Bramwell. “He’s always been my favorite target and he came through tonight.”

Center (7-3) gobbled up most of the third quarter with another long drive sparked by a fumbled Rooster punt return. Center quarterback Trevor Wilson couldn’t connect with running back Nosa Ohanmu in the end zone, and the Roosters marched from there to Atkins’ final TD pass.

The Yellowjackets didn’t get in the end zone until Wilson hit Cris Ferrer for an 8-yard pass in the closing seconds. But they thought they had their first TD before that.

Ohanmu, who had most of the carries for the Yellowjackets, threw what appeared to be a 33-yard halfback pass to Isaiah Henderson in the end zone earlier in the fourth quarter. But the officials ruled Henderson fumbled the ball and the Roosters recovered.

“I was very surprised by that,” DeLong said. “I looked away because I thought he called a touchdown.”

Pleasant Hill also added a touchdown late in the game on a 2-yard run by Wes Burkhart. That cemented the victory for the Roosters, who are enjoying their first winning season since going 11-1 in 2013.

“I feel good about it for our community,” Smith said. “The community has been aching for this and I was very proud of the way our boys played tonight.”