After watching the clock dissolve, big plays became of the utmost importance for Bishop LeBlond.
The No. 1-seeded Golden Eagles yielded a 17-play, near-7-minute drive to Brookfield in the third quarter, ceding away their lead in a flurry of runs from Bulldogs freshman Reed McBroom. Suddenly, LeBlond’s turnaround season appeared on the brink Wednesday night at Eagle Stadium.
“We definitely felt the pressure,” LeBlond junior wide receiver Patrick Dillon said. “That drive that they had took the entire third quarter, basically. We felt that if we didn’t get a big play soon, they were just going to run the clock down.”
Cort Patrick’s blocked punt set up a go-ahead touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, and Dillon’s second long touchdown catch provided the punctuation on LeBlond’s 20-12 victory in a Class 2 District 8 semifinal.
The season lives on, to be continued in Monday’s final vs. Lathrop back at Eagle Stadium.
LeBlond (7-4) came up with the key plays at the right times against the fourth-seeded Bulldogs. Dillon’s 62-yard grab on a third-and-14 put the Eagles ahead eight, and Brookfield’s final two drives both ended on interceptions — one from Patrick and one from Tyler Thrasher, the second pick for each in the Eagles’ four-INT night.
A district championship now comes into reach for LeBlond after back-to-back 1-9 seasons in coach Tony Dudik’s first two years and only two wins total in the previous three seasons.
“I don’t know if it’s kids believing in coach Dudik, but it’s definitely kids believing in what we do. They believe in our program,” Dudik said.
Brookfield (7-4) appeared ready to ride a surge of second-half momentum to an upset.
A trick play allowed Garrett Zahner to break off an 80-yard kickoff return on the second half’s opening kickoff, but LeBlond forced the Bulldogs to settle for freshman Art Huerta’s second field goal to close within 7-6. The Eagles then went three-and-out, and Brookfield started its lengthy march.
McBroom, who finished with 118 yards on 29 carries, did much of the work on the 6:26-long possession.
Brookfield converted five straight third downs — all on runs up the middle — and McBroom’s 2-yard touchdown run put the Bulldogs ahead 12-7 following a failed 2-point
“It was a slow death,” Dudik said. “We were up in the locker room (at half), and we knew they were going to keep pounding it right there. We really didn’t have an answer.”
A 38-yard completion to Dillon helped move LeBlond inside Brookfield’s 10 on the ensuring possession, but Brookfield stopped running back Austin Dawkins (23 carries, 121 yards) on a Wildcat-formation run on a fourth-down.
Switching defenses, the Eagles finally came up with a stop and forced a punt. Cue Patrick’s big punt block.
Coming around left end, the sophomore safety took the ball off of punter Dean Gall’s foot and fell on the recovery at Brookfield’s 1-yard line. On the very next play, Dawkins scored from 1 yard out, and LeBlond took a 13-12 lead.
“It hit me right in the stomach,” Patrick said. “I wanted (the touchdown).
“I thought (McBroom) was going to block me. We did that the first time, and he got me, so I was surprised he didn’t even touch me. I just dove in there and got it.”
After a Brookfield three-and-out, LeBlond took over again trying to milk part of the 5:53 remaining.
Dawkins went backward on the first two downs, part of a day that saw the senior bruiser eclipse the 100-yard mark on his first 10 carries despite six runs for zero or negative yards in that span. That led to Dudik dialing up a pass, and junior quarterback Matthew McCullough found a streaking Dillon behind the Brookfield defense.
Dillon ran the final 20 yards for the game’s final points.
“Honestly, I was looking behind me to make sure no one was behind me,” said Dillon, who finished with 135 yards receiving on four catches and two scores — giving him four through the air in two district wins. “I was just thinking, ‘Get to that end zone before anyone else can.’ Right when I got to about the 5-yard line, I started to lose it. It’s really hard to put into words.
“I haven’t felt that way before.”
Dawkins — one of only four LeBlond seniors — greeted Dillon the sidelines with a bear hug and words of thanks.
Underclassmen provided the biggest plays and showed the current and future potential of the rejuvenated Eagles on this critical night in program history. At the depths of program despair in recent years, LeBlond’s back and scoring postseason wins for only the third time in history.