Ultimate magazine theme for WordPress.

Bradford rallies in second half to triumph over rival Baker County in rare playoff meeting – FloridaHSFootball.com

STRONG, Fla. – Usually it is hard for any team to beat the same team twice in any given season. It takes shaking up the game plan you used against that team the first time to beat the same opponent once more.

However, it was not just any ordinary same opponent for the second time this season for the Bradford Tornadoes on Friday night at David Hurse Stadium. Instead, it was facing their most-heated and most-hated rival, the Baker County Wildcats from Glen St. Mary.

And the fans showed up loud and proud for both sides in a hard-fought battle that saw just about a little bit of everything in the kitchen sink you could have thought of when it comes to playoff football on Thanksgiving week.

In the end, a Baker County (9-4) 17-7 lead at half saw it turn into a 28-17 victory for Bradford (12-1) to advance to the state semifinals.

What a way to come out here @BHSTornadoFB! #flhsfb pic.twitter.com/UEztn3fJFk

— FloridaHSFootball.com (@FlaHSFootball) November 26, 2022


Those in Bradford and Baker counties will both know about this part of the history, but for those who are unfamiliar, at one time both Bradford and Baker counties were together as one county called New River County which came about in 1858 from parts of Columbia and Alachua counties. At the time this included what is also now modern-day Union County which would not come about until the 1920s.

In 1861 New River County was renamed Baker County and what was left of New River County was then renamed Bradford County making the two counties almost instant rivals of sorts many years before the sport of football was even thought of.

If you can even get a sense of where this is going to go, it is pretty much Bradford and Baker counties share a lot of commonalities including how diehard the people in these two counties love what they do including loving the game of football. This is why these two teams are arch-rivals of one another.


If you are a fan of high school football and like seeing two teams slug it out on the field, that is what your price of admission got you on Friday night between the visiting Wildcats and the host Tornadoes with the stadium packed all the way around in all corners.

Bradford wins the coin toss and defers to the second half. Baker County will receive the opening kickoff in moments! #flhsfb pic.twitter.com/B6DcMYdmrY

— FloridaHSFootball.com (@FlaHSFootball) November 26, 2022

The first quarter of the game was really nothing to write home about until towards the end of the first quarter on the second drive Bradford was looking promising for the first points of the game with Willie Pollard leading the charge on the ground.

Willie Pollard for Bradford rushed up the visitor sideline with a 46-yard touchdown run on Friday, Nov. 25, 2022, at David Hurse Stadium in Starke, Fla. [Joshua Wilson/FloridaHSFootball.com]Getting all the way down to the one thanks to Jeremiah McKenzie’s first down run for five yards on first and goal all of a sudden changed when the ball popped loose on the Tornadoes which was scooped up by the Wildcats’ Hudson Register. Register ran it back 91 yards to the Bradford five-yard line with Chason Clark coming in with the touchdown-saving tackle.

With the first quarter coming to an end, Baker County used that opportunity to draw up a simple play to Blake Mays from five yards out on the first play of the second quarter to get the first points of the game, taking a 7-0 lead with 11:53 to go before half time.

After the exchanges of a couple more punts between Wildcats and Tornadoes, things started to click for the Tornadoes with their third drive of the game when running back Willie Pollard blasted up the Baker County sideline for 46 yards to make the game 7-7 with 6:34 before halftime.

Baker County’s next drive saw Bradford get hit with at least two personal foul penalties on top of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that handed the Wildcats a ton of free yards. One of the personal foul penalties was coupled with the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty same play that placed the ball at the two. It only took two more plays for the Wildcats to punch it in with a Cam Smith 1-yard run with 2:55 left before the half.

With the tornadoes having the ball back they started to put the two-minute offense in motion even though they would be receiving the second-half kickoff.

However, the thought of any kind of points evaporated almost when McKenize who appeared to be targeting Clark along the Tornadoes sideline was intercepted by Mays who returned the ball back to the Bradford 35 yards line.

That interception would set up a 42-yard field goal for Baker County on the final play of the half to put the Wildcats on top 17-7 going into the locker room.

The crowd here in Starke for @BCWildcatsFB vs. @BHSTornadoFB is FILLED TO THE BRIM! People standing on the fence line in all directions here! A rivalry game in the playoffs is rare! #flhsfb @Andy_Villamarzo @HSFBamerica @ThePrepZone pic.twitter.com/AXznWNcg54

— FloridaHSFootball.com (@FlaHSFootball) November 26, 2022


Bradford who wanted to forget how the first half went was looking for an answer coming out of the locker room from halftime whether it came from the offense or special teams. That answer needed to be in the form of points, preferably a touchdown.

Jametrius Pringle returned the second-half kickoff 98 yards for a Bradford touchdown on Friday, Nov. 25, 2022, at David Hurse Stadium in Starke, Fla. [Joshua Wilson/FloridaHSFootball.com]In that case, Jametrius Pringle had the answer that head coach Jamie Rodgers was looking for out of his Tornadoes returning the opening kickoff back 98 yards to put the game back within one possession, cutting the Wildcats’ lead to 17-14 with just 20 seconds taken off the third quarter clock.

However, it looked like that touchdown would be all for not with the Wildcats starting to drive again on the Tornadoes, but the Tornadoes’ defense stood tall forcing Baker County into a field goal situation looking to keep the game within a one-score possession. Instead of a 39-yard field goal that looked like was going to be good instead went just left of the goal post giving the ball back to the Tornados on their own 20.

The Wildcats were not giving up their fight to keep the lead against the Tornadoes despite the miss field goal and had Bradford facing a punting situation with fourth and one at the 39. However, in a sudden change of plans, the Tornadoes took the roll of the dice to go for the first down.

That roll of the dice paid off when McKenzie led the charge on the quarterback keeper with a 61-yard burning run up the Bradford sideline to put the Tornadoes ahead 21-17 with 3:54 left in the third quarter.

But the tornadoes were not in a clear path to victory just yet despite taking the lead when Gavin Cook coughed up the ball on a punt return at the end of the third quarter giving Baker County the ball right back at the Tornadoes’ 37-yard line.

With the way the Tornadoes’ defense had been playing to that point in the second half, they felt confident they could go out there to hold them to settle either for a field goal or no points.

Indeed that would be the case once against, forcing the Wildcats into a field goal situation from 29 yards out with 9:09 left in the game when the Bradford special teams unit got in and put a hand up on the ball making it come down short of the goal posts.

That missed field goal gave the ball back to the Tornadoes, but with nothing going after getting that partial block on the Wildcats’ missed field goal attempt, the Tornadoes were once again calling on their defense to keep the small lead in their possession.

Jeremiah McKenzie drops back to pass on 3rd & 16 with an 81-yard touchdown pass that was delivered to Chason Clark to put Bradford up 28-17 late in the fourth quarter on Friday, Nov. 25, 2022, at David Hurse Stadium in Starke , Fla. [Joshua Wilson/FloridaHSFootball.com]With the ball back in the hands of the Wildcats, Baker County started to make some moves that looked like they might get the potential game-winning score. The Tornadoes knowing that a Bradford touchdown could be gut-wrenching stood tall once again with 4:42 to go forcing Baker County to turn it over on downs at the 27.

The Tornadoes having the ball back facing third-and-16 at their own 21 after a couple of penalties set things back was looking to put the Tornadoes back on defense with a punt looming and needing a long pass play to come about to get just a first down to the 37.

Dropping back to get a pass playoff, McKenzie found Clark for an 81-yard touchdown pass through the middle with Clark going up the sideline beating every Wildcat defender along the way to take a 28-17 lead with 2:56 left in the game to cushion the lead over the wildcats.

Two interceptions by Chalil Cummings other Justin Hall with 2:26 and 1:06 left respectively sealed the game up entirely for the tornadoes to send them on to the state semifinals.



Bradford 28, Baker County 17- FINAL #flhsfb @Andy_Villamarzo @SBLiveFL @HSFBamerica @ThePrepZone @CenFLAPreps @AinsliesTwoBits @mpallman pic.twitter.com/V5Y7EYBHkH

— FloridaHSFootball.com (@FlaHSFootball) November 26, 2022


One of the interesting storylines of the game itself wasn’t really about what happened on the field. Instead, it was about who was coaching on the field. For Baker County head coach Jamie Rodgers this is his first season with the Tornadoes coming back to the state after spending several years coaching up in Georgia.

For Rodgers, this is his third head coaching stop in Florida previously spending time at Suwannee from 2012-2015 and Baker County, his alma mater, from 2016-2018 before going to Cook County, Ga. from 2019 until last year, it was personal for Rodgers.

How personal? Personal to the point that his brother, Jarrell, is an assistant still for Baker County under current head coach Kevin Mays and was an assistant with his brother when Jamie was the head coach there. Jarrell is also the baseball head coach for the Wildcats and at times it could be heard on the field with Jarrell yelling at Jamie from across the field to get back on the sideline before he got penalized adding excitement to the game.


The Tornadoes had a special guest in the house on Friday night with the first-ever state championship-winning quarterback from the 1965 Bradford team that won the Class A state championship that year as Donnie Falcon attended the game to watch the hometown team get the win over Baker County.

1965 Bradford State Championship winning quarterback Donnie Falcon (right) with head coach Jamie Rodgers after the Tornadoes 28-17 victory over Baker County. Falcon played for the legendary David Hurse who coached Bradford to two titles in 1965 and 1966! #flhsfb @BHSTornadoFB pic.twitter.com/CIwo5jsI5K

— FloridaHSFootball.com (@FlaHSFootball) November 26, 2022


Bradford head coach Jamie Rodgers shares his thoughts on the victory for his Tornadoes.


Bradford being in the top two of the teams remaining based on the final regular season ranking from the FHSAA Power Rankings will host the state semifinals next Friday as the No. 2 seeds. They will host No. 3 seed Cocoa (9-3) who thumped South Sumter on the road 35-7. Kickoff is slated next Friday at 7:30 pm at David Hurse Stadium in Starke.

Comments are closed.