HARRIS - If the Bark River-Harris Broncos continue to play defense like they did Friday night against the Gladstone Braves, they will win some games this season. This however, was not their night.
Gladstone, despite a litany of miscues on offense was able to come up with big plays when needed and stifled the anemic Broncos offense to come away with a 34-6 victory.
For much of the game, the Broncos' defense, overmatched in size and numbers, was able to keep it a game. The Braves led 14-0 at halftime thanks to two big scoring players and a fumble recovery, but Broncos coach Brad Wiljanen was proud of the effort.
Justin?Marietti |?Daily Press
Alex Emmes of Bark River-Harris tries to power forward as Gladstone’s Sam Pouliot closes in for the tackle int he first quarter Friday at Harris.
Justin Marietti |?Daily Press
Jared Vuksan of Gladstone runs for a 27-yard touchdown run in the first quarter Friday against the Bark River-Harris Broncos at Harris.
"I thought we played rather well. I'm really proud of the kids and the jump we took from last week," he said. "last week, we came out a little timid, scared even. I'll be honest, the kids made a leap this week. The intensity picked up and I thought we earned some respect tonight."
The Braves despite putting 34 points on the board were held to 155 yards rushing, much of those coming in the fourth quarter when linebacker Jared Vuksan got the bulk of his carries. Vuksan rumbled for 73 yards on eight carries and had two touchdowns, including a 27-yard blast in the first quarter to give the Braves a 14-0 lead.
"With a kid like Jared Vuksan, there's nothing you can do," said Wiljanen. "You try to run at him, but some of those kids you just can't match up against. When on offense, we brought him down a couple times, we just tired out a bit."
Gladstone 14 0 14 6 - 34
BR-Harris 0 0 0 6 - 6
G - Justin Pederson, 37-yard reception from Sam Pouliot, Vuksan kick, 6:49
G - Jared Vuksan, 27-yard run, Vuksan kick, 1:00
G - Justin Pederson, 46-yard reception from Sam Pouliot, Vuksan kick, 6:32
G - Sam Pouliot, 50-yard run, Vuksan kick, 5:01
BR-H - Brian Latta, 11-yard run, 2pt pass failed, 11:55
G - Jared Vuksan, 11-yard run, kick failed, 3:47
Vuksan certainly stood tall for the Braves on defense taking absolutely everything away up the middle, and it didn't get much better for the Broncos when they tried for the outside. BR-H was held to just 39 rushing yards and 73 total yards of offense. Their biggest play came at the end of the third quarter, when quarterback Jorden Sodergren launched a 34-yard bomb to Neil Wentland who out-leapt the Braves' defender to come down with it. The Broncos scored their lone touchdown on the next play when Brian Latta ran it in from 11 yards out, breaking a couple tackles along the way.
The Broncos' other highlight came at the start of the second half when they surprised the Braves by attempting, and recovering, an onside kick. Alex Emmes came down with the recovery for the Broncos. It was all for naught, however, as BR-H committed a holding penalty and went three-and-out.
"We have so many things that have to get ironed out offensively. Especially some of the mistakes," said Wiljanen. "I think the defense will keep us in ballgames though until the offensive things get ironed out."
It was a different story for Braves quarterback Sam Pouliot, who was 4-14 passing for 120 yards, but hit receiver Justin Pederson for two long touchdown passes of 37 yards and 46 yards. Pouliot also took off for a 50-yard touchdown run on a broken play in the third quarter. Pederson had an opportunity to come down with more as he was targeted multiple times, but when he did come down with the ball, he showed how dangerous he can be.
Still, for Gladstone Coach Josh Mileski, it wasn't enough.
"We can't bank on those big plays," he said. "We did a nice little job toward the end when wen came out of the I-formation with Jared Vuksan and we have the potential to break big plays because we have the athletes, but we have to be more consistent. You can't hope we'll break three big ones and have to punt the rest of the time."
Multiple high snaps also plagued the Braves. Five went over Pouliot's head and at least a dozen were high, forcing Pouliot to jump up, grab the ball and act quickly. However, with each high snap, Pouliot was able to protect the ball from Broncos' defenders.
"Even when the high snaps weren't happening, we had 4-5 people just hoping someone else would make the play," said Mileski. "Defensively, I can't complain, but offensively, we executed poorly. We didn't show up to play on offense, and I don't mean that to be disrespectful to Bark River."
Next Friday, Gladstone (2-0) travels to Negaunee (2-0) while Bark River-Harris (0-2) heads to Newberry (1-1).