Brahmans and Bulldogs battle in back-and-forth bout

STUART — The Okeechobee Brahmans and South Fork Bulldogs had a wild, back-and-forth game when they met up on Sept. 13 at South Fork High School.

The game had plenty of offense, great defensive plays and a controversial call from officials that may have changed the outcome of the game. Ultimately Okeechobee ended up falling to South Fork 28-27.

Things couldn’t have started any better for the Brahmans. In fact it might have been one of the best opening sequences of a game Okeechobee has had in the past two seasons. Okeechobee senior Veyon Washington took the opening kickoff 47 yards to midfield to open the game. A few plays later sophomore Jayquavious Thomas marched into the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown. Thomas has been able to score in the last three Okeechobee games.

Following a missed extra point, the Brahmans were up 6-0.
Next the Okeechobee special teams gave their offense the ball right back when they recovered the ensuing kickoff around midfield.

After a holding penalty threatened to stall the Okeechobee drive, Washington was able to complete a clutch pass to junior Joshua Suarez to get a first down and keep things rolling. A few plays later, Washington took the ball to the house on a 17-yard touchdown run. The two-point conversion failed and Okeechobee was then up 12-0 on the Bulldogs.

But to the Bulldogs credit, they were able to maintain their composure after the shaky start.

South Fork junior quarterback Matt Bowman had the Bulldog offense rolling and was able to respond with a 39-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to make the game 12-7.

And in the second quarter the Bulldogs would take their first lead of the game with another touchdown to go up 14-12.

It would only take Okeechobee 10 minutes to respond with a touchdown of their own on a 5-yard run by Washington.

The Bulldogs defense had originally appeared to stop the Brahman offense. The South Fork defensive line was able to break through the Okeechobee offensive line on a third down play near the goal line to tackle freshman Micheal Burgarelli behind the line of scrimmage and force a fourth down.

Okeechobee coach Ty Smith didn’t hesitate to go for it on fourth down, calling Washington’s number again who outran the South Fork defense to get the touchdown and put Okeechobee back up 19-14 in the second quarter.

The Brahmans looked to be on the verge of heading into halftime with the lead when a badly timed error on special teams gifted South Fork a free touchdown. Okeechobee was lined up to punt with a minute remaining in the second quarter when a bad snap sailed into the end zone where it was recovered by the Bulldogs to give South Fork the 21-19 lead at halftime.

Both teams would add a touchdown in the second half, with Okeechobee converting a two-point conversion to make it a one-point game, trailing 28-27. But a phantom whistle would take the next Okeechobee touchdown off the board and change the momentum of the game.

Down by one point, the Okeechobee offense looked to be methodically moving the ball down the field towards the midpoint of the fourth quarter.

As the Brahmans entered the red zone, Washington broke free for a 20-yard touchdown run to give Okeechobee the lead. But an official blew the play dead as Veyon crossed into the end zone. There was no flag on the play and after a long discussion, officials moved Okeechobee back and made them replay the down. It wasn’t clear why a whistle was blown, and no signal was given by the referees as to what happened on the play. Regardless, the whistle took a guaranteed touchdown off the board for Okeechobee.

Okeechobee wouldn’t reach the end zone again for the rest of the game and the Brahmans fell 28-27.

The Brahmans won’t have long to reflect on the gut-wrenching loss as they have a short week to prepare for the Moore Haven Terriers who come to Okeechobee on Sept. 19.

Moore Haven is coming off a dominating performance against their rival the Glades Day Gators and appear to be building momentum after a slow start to their season.

The Brahmans will face the Terriers for the first time since 2016 at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 19, in Okeechobee.

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