54 for 54
Easton honors former teammate
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.
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.
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.