Bethany off and running
The Bronchos offense is on a roll behind the dynamic running duo of quarterback Sam Brandt and running back Payton Harrell.
BETHANY -- Nursing a 16-13 lead late in the fourth quarter, Bethany needed three yards on fourth down inside Kingfisher’s red zone.
But when quarterback Sam Brandt took the snap, he saw five Kingfisher defenders swarming him. And his coach, Jon Arthur, had already moved on to what he thought needed to happen on the next play.
“I was already thinking about how our defense was going to have to stop them driving 80 yards in three minutes,” Arthur said.
But Brandt improbably escaped the over-pursuing swarm of Kingfisher defenders with a spin move back toward the middle of the field. One Kingfisher player remained between him and the game-clinching first down, but running back Payton Harrell knocked the defender off his feet as the sophomore quarterback ran 16 yards for the first down.
In a game where Harrell rushed 38 times for 255 yards and two touchdowns, it’s his block for his predominantly running quarterback that was key in Bethany’s 30-13 home win Friday night.
“I saw five guys coming at me,” Brandt said. “I have no idea how I got out of that. Peyton threw me a big block as well as some of my linemen.”
It was only natural that Harrell (two-yard run after Brandt’s fourthdown conversion) and Brandt (38-yard interception return) scored the game-clinching touchdowns in the final two minutes.
The running combination of Harrell and Brandt, who finished with 105 yards rushing, saw one take a leading role in each half. Harrell rushed 24 times for 198 yards in the first half, and Bethany used its explosive plays to pressure Kingfisher’s defense and jump to a 16-13 halftime lead.
But Kingfisher adjusted by putting extra men in the box to start the second half. A previously wide-open offensive battle in the first half turned into a defensive tussle.
With Harrell finding no room to run, Bethany turned to Brandt’s running to keep the clock ticking while moving the ball enough to keep Kingfisher in poor field position.
“They definitely stacked the box in the second half,” Harrell said. “We started giving it to Sam and started getting a few good runs.”
Arthur, who is in his first year as head coach, has guided his team to a 3-0 start. Bethany enters district play ranked No. 5 in The Oklahoman’s Class 4A rankings.
Neither of Bethany’s top runners has more than a few months of reps with Brandt under center.
Harrell, a senior, missed the end of the 2016 season with an injury, and Brandt played as a reserve running back in his first season.
But the chemistry the two have developed in a short period has Bethany’s rushing offense rolling as it looks to win a district title.
“Playing with Payton is awesome,” Brandt said “We always have our laughs in the backfield. Being a senior, he has been in the situation before like the one tonight. He is always there for me to pick me up.”
Bethany’s Payton Harrell (30) carries the ball during Friday’s game between Bethany and Kingfisher at the SNU football stadium in Bethany.