MIDDLEBURG - Middleburg High football coach Karl Smeltzer has been quietly confident of the athletic ability of his 2019 football team as the Broncos' preseason clash with Fort White was imminent.
"We have the athletes to play fast and keep the ball moving," said Smeltzer prior to the game.
From that thought, senior running back Laron Bryant popped off a 50 kickoff return on the first tough of Friday's preseason clash with Fort White that was answered with two runs; a Bryant seven yarder and a Jay Lane eight yarder before quarterback Joe Justino faked a sweep and rolled left 27 yards to paydirt.
"That first drive showed us what could happen when everyone executes at the same time," said Smeltzer. "From there, we dominated between the 20s, but shot ourselves in the foot probably four times with mistakes."
Middleburg would hold that 7-0 lead to the half of the varsity end of the contest with junior varsity entering the game after the first series of the second half.
The Middleburg defense, led by middle linebacker Brody Senn and outside end Steven Henriksen harassed the vaunted Fort White offense throughout the night with the Indians pushing a 14 play drive on their first touch only to be halted on the Bronco 12 yard line and missing a field goal.
"I like what the defense did; we were flying around all night," said Smeltzer. "We were sending guys from all directions; Brody, Steven, Trevor Shearin and Logan Padgett and Cole LeClair in the middle were solid. Our secondary made some minor mistakes to let them get downfield, but we stepped up when it counted to stop them."
In the second quarter, a disastrous punt from Justino put Fort White on the Middleburg 30; net two yard kick, but a flying sack from Henriksen who exploded from the left side, crushed the Indian series and got a third and 30 situation that ended with a punt and a 12 yard return from Taj Gonsalves. A flag put Middleburg at their own nine to start the drive.
A better punt by Justino (about 45 yards) that pinned the Fort White returnman near his own 40 got one of the best runs of the night to paydirt for the Indians, but a flag nullified the effort and put Fort White back at midfield.
Middleburg got a nifty reverse play between Bryant and Lane that got 15 yards and put the Broncos at the 12 yard line, but Justino was wide right on is field goal attempt just before the end of the first quarter.
Shearin and Padgett chased down two sweeps for the Broncos to force a punt from Fort White's 29 yard line on the first drive of the second period, but Justino missed on two pass attempts.
Fort White's next drive got a stuff from Trevor Todd on second and 25 and Shearin nearly intercepting on a pass hurried by Padgett.
Justino got a final pass to Tony Todaro to the Indians' 20 as time ran out for the half.
Middleburg opens regular season play with an away game at Westside High. In their preseason game, Westside got whomped by Fleming Island 24-0 in one half of play.