Broncos flags roll in rain

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 4/6/22

MIDDLEBURG - While most of the county athletic teams stayed indoors during a Thursday rain episode, the Middleburg High Lady Broncos flag football team and the Ridgeview High Lady Panthers decided …

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Broncos flags roll in rain


MIDDLEBURG - While most of the county athletic teams stayed indoors during a Thursday rain episode, the Middleburg High Lady Broncos flag football team and the Ridgeview High Lady Panthers decided football is football and what’s a little rain.

In a soggy, wet field atmosphere with just a slight drizzle the hardest weather interference for the game, Bronco quarterback Brooke Swenson and Ridgeview quarterback Nia Blocton staged a no-holds barred battle from the pocket with Swenson hitting quick-hitting passes to her backs out of the backfield; Laura Palagyi and Jaden Lopresti, and Blocton finding fleet footed wide outs #13 and #21 for big gains including a 40 yard scoring strike to wideout Mia-Bella Gutierrez, the game teetered off slippery grass and a wet football before Middleburg prevailed 20-7. Ridgeview fell to 2-1.

The Broncos, now 4-0, scored first with three minutes left in the first quarter with Swenson first missing a long fly pattern to Cheyenne Jenkins before hitting Palagyi scored off a battle in the end zone with the much taller defense; Gutierrez and Aniyah Campbell, of Ridgeview.

Middleburg scored the point after off a tight offensive line formation with X-Back Kayleigh McWatters sneaking behind the line and snagging a quick pass from Swenson.

Undeterred by the rain and by the Bronco defense, Blocton set up her scoring strike to Gutierrez with runs through the middle from #11 before lofting a sideline pass on the first play of the second quarter toward the Panther sideline.

On third and 10, Blocton found Ziyah Campbell for the first down at midfield before Gutierrez caught the pass, cut to the sideline, evaded two flag tackle attempts, then found open grass all the way to the end zone.

On the extra point, Blocton hit a slant to Campbell to tie the contest at 7-7 with 10 minutes left in the half.

At the two minute warning, with Ridgeview going for a first down on a fourth and three yards, Blocton misfired on a pass.

Ridgeview nearly flipped the game when rusher Paetyn Miller bobbled and dropped a potential pick-6 interception after jumping a crossing route from the Broncos.

Middleburg took over inside the Ridgeview side of midfield with 1:26 still in the half and Middleburg coach John Stilianou and daughter Alexis looking to get a quick pre-half score to sway momentum into the second half as the rain began to increase.

A nifty option run by Lopresti with Palagyi off her shoulder awaiting a lateral got the ball to the Panther eight yard line with 32 seconds on the clock.

Ridgeview’s defense, led by rusher Mackenzie Light who got a sack on Swenson, and Paetyn Miller, harassed Swenson into two misses in the end zone; to Jenkins and to Brandy Mann, as the halftime buzzer sounded.

In the second half, Stilianou tried to counter the heavy Ridgeview pass rush with more personnel beside center Autumn Vineyard with Swenson rolling out for passes to Palagyi. Palagyi took an inside jet sweep handoff for 25 yards to the Panther 20 yard line with 10 minutes left in the third.

Palagyi again slipped away from two Panther tacklers after a pass to move a quick out pass to the 18 yard line. Swenson went for Jenkins in the end zone again, but the much-taller Necoya Blocton slapped the ball away.

Swenson lost three after colliding with Lopresti and falling in the backfield much to the dismay of Stilianou.

Third and 20, Swenson went deep to Palagyi who got whomped on the flag tag but still held on to the ball.

On the next play, Lopresti took a direct snap from Vineyard as Ridgeview’s defense eyeballed Swenson going in the opposite direction and romped to paydirt. Palagyi and Mann combined for a PAT pass play; 14-7 for Middleburg.

With 5:16 left in the third, Ridgeview stayed on the ground with Lexi Haile and Cherish Hall carrying the ball including a reverse play that Bronco cornerback Abigail Doran sniffed out and buried at the line of scrimmage.

On the next play, Ridgeview wide out Ja’Leah Robertson made a nice comeback pass catch and got additional yardage on an aggressive tackle flag. Haile again pounded the rock up the middle to gain three with Bronco rusher Desiree Hall hurrying Blocton to a missed pass.

Hall missed on a fourth down sack attempt to give Ridgeview a first down at Middleburg’s 38 and new life into the final stanza.

Swenson, playing on a corner defensive slot, jumped Blocton’s first pass and intercepted the ball bringing it deep into Ridgeview territory.

Alexis Stilianou, barking offensive signals left of her dad, looked to quickly take advantage of the Swenson steal and sent Swenson on a quarterback draw as the stadium lights came on amidst the impending storm.

Staying on the ground with jet sweeps to Lopresti and Palagyi, Middleburg nearly lost the ball on a floating pass in the end zone that Campbell nearly snared.

At 8:34, McWatters snatched a quick slant to the eight with Palagyi missing on another slant over the middle. On fourth down, Swenson tried to coerce the Ridgeview defense to jump offsides, but Miller and Ania Haber stayed put and forced a Bronco timeout to reassess.

Light caught Swenson behind the line of scrimmage to squash the drive and give Ridgeview the ball.

Forced to pass, Blocton got snagged a second time with Lopresti grabbing an errant pass for an interception that put Middleburg in Ridgeview territory with 3:51 left in the game.

Alexis Stilianou, ever the imaginative offensive tactician, attempted some hook and ladder chicanory but McWatters bobbled the lateral attempt.

With rain getting heavy, Middleburg would score at 35 seconds from the seven with Swenson following Vineyard up the middle. Middleburg missed the extra point for the final 20-7.


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