54 for 54

Eas­ton hon­ors for­mer team­mate

Sunday Star - - FRONT PAGE - By WIL­LIAM HAUFE bhaufe@star­dem.com

EAS­TON — It started with the sun break­ing through cloud cover at just the per­fect time.

It ended — at least for many con­nected with Eas­ton High’s foot­ball pro­gram — with a final that seemed per­fect, yet al­most unimag­in­able: Eas­ton 54, Wash­ing­ton 0.

“A lot to take in,” said Eas­ton High se­nior wide re­ceiver Bran­don Booze, who had per­haps the game of his life on a night when his late brother, John Christo­pher Bradley, was honored prior to kick­off. “I wanted to do well for my brother Christo­pher, and I wanted to go out here and get this win for him. Just the 54 on the score­board at the end of the game … it’s al­ready bring­ing me to tears.”

Bradley, who had played foot­ball at Eas­ton for three years and would have been a se­nior this sea­son, died in a car ac­ci­dent on Ox­ford Road on April 18, 2017. He was 17.

“Meaned a lot, es­pe­cially with 54 left on the score­board,” Eas­ton se­nior run­ning back Con­nor But­ler said. “He was just a re­ally close friend, so it was good to get the win for him.”

Though not threat­en­ing, clouds hov­ered over War­rior Sta­dium dur­ing warmups. The sun be­gan peek­ing through though as pub­lic ad­dress an­nouncer Ron Vener, his voice at times trem­bling with emo­tion, spoke of Bradley be­fore ask­ing for

a mo­ment of si­lence. Many in the large crowd bowed their heads, while oth­ers bat­tled tears.

Game of­fi­cials soon sum­moned each team’s cap­tains to­ward the mid­dle of the field for the coin toss. Hold­ing Bradley’s No. 54 jersey, Booze and se­nior quar­ter­back Ma­son Led­ford moved onto the field with fel­low cap­tains Carter Tay­lor and Tahjiere Nixon. Af­ter the coin toss, Booze and Led­ford walked No. 54 back to the side­line, then watched as Eas­ton kicked off.

Wash­ing­ton ran three plays and punted, giv­ing Eas­ton pos­ses­sion at its own 34-yard line.

The War­riors’ 11-man of­fense broke from its hud­dle and moved into their re­spec­tive po­si­tions. But as Led­ford be­gan call­ing the sig­nals, Booze — as planned — jogged of f the field, as Eas­ton rec­og­nized their fallen team­mate with the miss­ing-man for­ma­tion, while play­ers and coaches raised their arms and pointed their in­dex fin­gers to­ward the sky. Booze re­turned to the field on the next play, the field now blan­keted in bright sun­shine.

“Right when I got back on the field I was just locked in,” Booze said. “I just wanted to do good by him.”

“It was hard,” said Led­ford, an­other close friend of Bradley’s. “But we knew he was with us. We were play­ing with 12 the whole night. He was watching over every­thing we did. He’s the rea­son why we were so suc­cess­ful tonight. He was on that score­board just like we were tonight; on the field with us.”

Booze had three first-half re­cep­tions — a fourth went for a touch­down but was nul­li­fied by penalty. That hardly slowed Eas­ton, which scored touch­downs on its first seven pos­ses­sions, lead­ing 27-0 af­ter the first quar­ter, and 47-0 at half.

Led­ford found Booze for a 20yard pickup on the sec­ond play of the sec­ond half. Three snaps later, af­ter penal­ties backed Eas­ton up to its own 44, Led­ford con­nected with Booze for a 56-yard touch­down pass down the vis­it­ing side­line, giv­ing the se­nior wide­out five re­cep­tions for a game-high 138 yards. Alex Stecher-Scott, who booted five ex­tra-points in the first half, drilled his sixth with 5 min­utes, 54 sec­onds re­main­ing in the third quar­ter to give Eas­ton a 54-0 lead.

“Every­thing be­fore the game re­ally sort of fu­eled you to re­ally do this for him,” said Led­ford on a night when he com­pleted 17 of 22 for 314 yards and a ca­reer-high five touch­downs. “Once I threw that touch­down pass to Booze it re­ally hit me; kind of broke down a lit­tle bit, had a lit­tle mo­ment. But it felt re­ally good to come out with a W, es­pe­cially putting up 54 points.”

Eas­ton’s Ma­son Led­ford (10) and Bran­don Booze (2) walk the jersey of the late Christo­pher Bradley to mid­field for the coin toss with fel­low cap­tains Carter Tay­lor and Tahjiere Nixon prior to Friday night’s game against Wash­ing­ton.

PHOTO BY WIL­LIAM HAUFE

Bran­don Booze jogged off the field and pointed to­ward the sky Friday night as Eas­ton ran the miss­ing-man for­ma­tion in honor of his late brother, Christo­pher Bradley.

Ma­son Led­ford shows the sticker placed on the hel­mets of Eas­ton play­ers, hon­or­ing for­mer team­mate Christo­pher Bradley, who wore num­ber 54.

PHO­TOS BY WIL­LIAM HAUFE

The fam­ily of Christo­pher Bradley gath­ered for a photo af­ter Eas­ton’s 54-0 vic­tory Friday night over Wash­ing­ton. From left, step­fa­ther Dyke Booze, sis­ter Kate­lyn Bradley, brother Bran­don Booze, and mother Linda Booze.

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