By Chuck Reherman
Next man up.
It’s been the mantra of several football teams this season.
And with Southwest Covenant missing its top two players in the opening round of the playoffs, the concern was there about advancing to the next round.
SWCS relied on the next man up and it paid off for them in a big way.
Back-up quarterback Bryson Ford passed for 255 yards and six touchdowns and the Patriots rolled to a 50-18 win over Webbers Falls in the opening round of the Class C Playoffs at Patriot Field.
Ford, who was head coach Trey Cloud’s third or fourth choice for the position, was moved into the position after the Patriots lost starting quarterback Ben Webb to a knee injury in the regular season finale. Webb had surgery Friday to repair a torn ACL, MCL and maniscus in his knee.
With Webb out, starting runningback/receiver Tyler Kelly has been the back-up, but he was out with a dislocated shoulder, so Cloud had to turn to Ford, who stepped up and had a career game.
Ford led the Patriots to a 24-0 lead in the first half and SWCS was never really pressed in the game.
“Bryson was actually our fifth string quarterback, our other one broke his hand and another injured a hip,”
Cloud said. “He managed the game well for us, made the plays and the passes he needed to make and managed the game really well.
“He got us in an out the huddle and settled down after a shaky start,” he said. “A couple of the throws he made, he was being hit the face because our line didn’t block as well tonight. But we came out a win. It was a great win, the kids did well. It was hard fought, but the players did well.”
Ford completed 15 of 19 passes on the night to five different receivers and threw six touchdowns. And, the defense stepped up as well, holding Webbers Falls to only 206 yards of offense.
“Our defense is going to have to be our strength from here on out and they played really well tonight,” Cloud said. “We are going to try and do that each and every week and no matter what we have to do to do that, we will do. We did make some mistakes, and we will just have to minimize mistakes from here on out.
“They have run the wildcat offense and used some sweeps pretty much all year, so we knew we would get a big dose of it,” he said. “And, we did a good job of for the most part. We gave up some big plays, but we made some big plays on defense as well.”
The defense set up the first two touchdowns of the game. Will Haas intercepted a Josh Mason pass at the SWCS 25 and returned it to the Webbers Falls 35.
Blake Riddell scored the first touchdown, diving into the end zone from one yard out with 7:01 left in the first. Riddell had set up the score with a 28-yard pass two plays earlier.
Haas came up with a second turnover, recovering a Warrior fumble at the SWCS 37-yard line. That turned into a 34-yard touchdown pass from Ford to Riddell and a 12-0 lead with 2:17 left in the quarter.
Ford scored on a 30-yard run with 7:33 left in the half and passed 10-yards to Anthony Cox for a 24-0 lead with 2:10 left in the half.
Mason returned the ensuing kickoff 67 yards for a touchdown, but the Patriots answered with 1:26 left on an eight-yard Ford to Cole Gatlin touchdown pass to take a 30-6 halftime lead.
“I was pleased offensively for the most part, we did what we needed to do to win,” Cloud said. “We have to switch gears from flying around to taking the clock out of the game if we need to. And, I’m good with that.
“We will get Tyler back next week,” he said. “He could have played tonight, but we felt we could hold him out. And, we made the plays we needed to do to win.”
The Patriots expanded their lead to 38-6 on the opening possession of the third quarter as Ford connected with Haas on a 49-yard touchdown pass just 57 seconds into the second half.
Leading 38-12, Ford connected again with Haas on a 34-yard touchdown pass with 4:08 left in the third and tossed 29-yard scoring pass to Cox with 8:41 remaining in the game to open a 50-12 lead.
Haas caught three passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns and Riddell caught five for 91 yards and two scores.
“This group just keep finding ways to win,” Cloud said. “I have preached to the guys that we know better than anyone else that life is hard. This season has sucked honestly. But we don’t give up when life sucks. This is bigger than football, it is real life stuff and you don’t give up because things in life are going to not be fund. But, you have to persevere. And, you guys get to do this together and that is what it is all about.”