Brunswick football unable to hold on in Jack Etter Bowl, falls to Andover, 35-28

Brunswick School running back JD Donahey goes for some positive yardage during Saturday's Jack Etter Bowl game against Andover. — Rachel Silverfarb photo

Brunswick School running back JD Donahey goes for some positive yardage during Saturday’s Jack Etter Bowl game against Andover. — Rachel Silverfarb photo

The disappointment and sadness on the faces on the Brunswick School football players immediately after their defeat to Phillips (Andover) Academy in Saturday’s Jack Etter Bowl told the story.

For a team that has been on a mission all season trying to prove people wrong about their success, Brunswick seemed like they were ready to do that again early on, grabbing a quick 21-6 halftime lead against an Andover team that scores well over 40 points a game.

However, Andover came charging back in the second half. Led by senior Ryder Stone’s 232-yard performance, with most of those yards coming in the second half, Phillips Academy scored 29 unanswered points and upended Brunswick 35-28 in the NEPSAC game held at Avon Old Farms.

“We watched a lot of film on those guys and they have a very good running attack,” Brunswick head coach Jarrett Shine said. “It was only a matter of time before they were going to go to their running game and try to bring us down a little bit. I take my hat off to Andover. They are a well-coached team, have a lot of great players and they are well deserving of the victory.”

Brunswick junior quarterback Billy O’Malley finished the game 15-for-34 for 312 yards and four touchdowns.

“The receivers did a great job getting open and the line did a great job holding us, but I didn’t make the throws that I needed to make,” O’Malley said. “I needed to make a couple more throws. Some days you make them, other days you don’t and today I wasn’t able to make all that I needed to make.”

Brunswick School's Jack Varvel (3) and Austin Meacham apply the tackle to the Andover running back during Saturday's Jack Etter Bown game at Avon Old Farms. — Rachel Silverfarb photo

Brunswick School’s Jack Varvel (3) and Austin Meacham (44) apply the tackle to the Andover running back during Saturday’s Jack Etter Bown game at Avon Old Farms. — Rachel Silverfarb photo

While O’Malley finished with four touchdown throws, three of them went to junior Malik Wilder. He netted a 32-yard touchdown reception on the team’s first drive, had a 26-yard touchdown catch to make the score 14-6 and rounded out his time in the end zone on a 57-yard touchdown catch and run from O’Malley.

In total Wilder finished with 193 yards on only eight receptions.

“It was great to get those three touchdowns, but we still didn’t win,” Wilder said. “I’m all about the team. We came out hard, fast and strong, but Andover came out harder, faster and stronger in the second half. We made more mistakes in the second half.”

O’Malley’s third touchdown of the game reached the outstretched hands of senior Henry Taylor, who netted the 34-yard reception with 3:17 to play in the half.

“I thought we had one of the fastest first half starts that we’ve had all season,” Taylor said. “I think the second half we took our feet off the gas pedal and they took advantage. We didn’t and they came out with the victory. Our offense became sluggish and we didn’t play fast. We knew that if we went into this game trying to overpower them, they would win.”

Brunswick started its outstanding first half right from the start. Getting the ball first, Brunswick made quick work of their drive. After senior running back JD Donohey returned the opening kickoff nearly 50 yards to the Andover 38, the Bruins faced a fourth down and four from the Andover 32. That’s when O’Malley found Wilder, who broke through the Big Blue defense and caught the ball in the end zone for the 7-0 lead.

Although Phillips Academy came back to make the score 7-6, the Bruins answered on the ensuing drive. Keyed by an 11-yard reception from senior tight end Dylan Wadsworth and an 11-yard pass to Wilder, O’Malley stepped back and found Wilder wide open at the Andover 10 and he cruised in the rest of the way for the touchdown and 14-6 lead.

“We came out with a lot of energy,” O’Malley said. “The crowd really fueled us and the coaches kept us focused. The atmosphere was unbelievable. We came out firing on all cylinders and it was a great start to the game. It really helped keep us in control.”

With 3:17 to play in the half, Brunswick extended its lead to 21-6. On a second down and 14, O’Malley fired down the field to Taylor, who made the leaping catch in the back corner of the end zone with an Andover defender on his heels the entire time.

Brunswick kept the good times rolling to start the second half, as Wilder’s 57-yard reception in the third quarter gave the Bruins a comfortable lead. However, that’s when Phillips Academy came out with a different game plan.

“You think about a team that puts up 45 points a game and we held them to six points in the first half, I think the defense did a great job,” Shine said. “We needed to tighten up a couple of things and we made a few mistakes, but we knew that if we continued doing what we were doing, the game would come out in our favor. However the second half, we made mistakes that hurt us, missed a few tackles and had a couple of blown coverages.”

Instead of consistently looking to pass the ball, Big Blue went to its ground game offensively and stepped up its defense. The results came fast and furious. Shortly after Wilder’s touchdown reception, Stone got the handoff and ran 25 yards to cut the lead to 28-12.

Brunswick School's Henry Taylor breaks away from the Phillips Academy defense and runs for the easy touchdown. However the play was called back due to a penalty on the Bruins. — Rachel Silverfarb photo

Brunswick School’s Henry Taylor breaks away from the Phillips Academy defense and runs for the easy touchdown. However the play was called back due to a penalty on the Bruins. — Rachel Silverfarb photo

After a Brunswick punt, Andover went back to work. Stone, who ran five or the six plays on the drive, capped it off with a six-yard touchdown run to make the score 28-20 with 11:30 to play in the game.

Although Brunswick punted on the ensuing possession, they got the ball back on the Andover 45, as Jack Varvel came up with the huge interception.

On the next play from scrimmage, O’Malley fired a quick shot to Taylor, who caught the ball at the Andover 30 and ran uncontested the rest of the way for the apparent touchdown. However an illegal formation call against the Bruins erased the touchdown.

After Phillips Academy knotted the game at 28-28 with 4:22 to play, Big Blue iced the game when quarterback Ian Magg fired a shot to Germaine Wright, who caught the ball in mid-stride down the Andover sideline and ran 66 yards for the touchdown and 35-28 lead with 2:57 to play.

“We have been building quick leads all year,” senior Jimmy Knight said. “We were excited and were playing really well in the first half. We knew it wasn’t over. Andover got the momentum back and they didn’t give it up in the second half. They mixed it up on us in the second half and we adjusted to it too late.”

However once the dust settles in the upcoming days, the sadness of not bringing home the Jack Etter Trophy will definitely turn into proud smiles after the Bruins realize how far the program has come in just one year.

Last season, Brunswick’s season couldn’t end quick enough. They finished with only one victory and weren’t able to gain any momentum during the season. With the loss to Andover, Brunswick finished the season with seven victories and only two losses in a season that everybody on the team wished would never end.

“Before the season started, I have only been a part of three wins in three season,” Taylor said. “To have a season like this is kind of surreal. It really hasn’t hit me yet. I am just truly blessed to be a part of this team. The reason I am not sad is because we did something that no one else thought we could.”

Despite the loss, O’Malley said that he couldn’t be more proud of how the season transpired.

“It’s remarkable,” O’Malley said. “It’s an unbelievable season. We came together this summer, played awesome and really bought into the scheme that we were going to run with our coaches. We all love each other to death and would do anything for each other. That was the difference this year. We are going to lose a great group of seniors this year.”

Shine said that the seniors, especially senior captains Wadsworth, Matt Gendell and Knight, deserve the credit for getting the Bruins to play in the Jack Etter Bowl.

“I told the seniors before that they have my complete respect,” Shine said. “They’ve been through the fire over the past few years and they never gave up. They played with a lot of confidence and were great leaders this year, which was the difference in making it to the championship.”

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