It only took until the second quarter for the undefeated Branford Buccaneers to put on a show, eventually shutting out Bell 39-0 led by senior quarterback Cohen David’s stellar performance.
“Well, I’m pleased with (the win), but at the same time, my message to the guys in there was, ‘We’ve got to keep working because the tests we got coming down the pipe are only going to get more difficult,” Branford coach Tim Clark said.
David, who came into Friday’s game with seven touchdown passes and no interceptions, threw for two more and added two touchdown rushes in the win. He was named the Sonic Drive-In Player of the Game as a result.
“I just think, the way our offense is created, we were just beating the coverage that they were running,” David said. “We have some skilled receivers, and I think we were just the better team tonight.”
David’s first touchdown on the night came on a three-yard run with 9:47 in the first quarter, set up by a long run by Caden Coker.
From there, chaos ensued in favor of the Bucs.
After Bell was unable to convert a fake punt, Bulldog corner Isaac Johnson intercepted a screen pass to give the ball right back to his offense.
However, on Bell’s first play, quarterback Zack Powell kept it up the middle for five yards but had the ball stripped by Branford’s Austin Malaguti, who returned the ball to the 28-yard line.
“Some plays like that, that weren’t mistakes on them, we dug in and made a play,” Tim Clark said. “When they come that way, you got to be proud because that’s a momentum-shifting play.”
On the ensuing drive, David threw for his first touchdown pass on a deep ball to Brice Criggall to put the score at 12-0 with just over three minutes before the half.
“Obviously, it’s a comfort for me that he’s a senior guy that doesn’t really get rattled,” Clark said. “He was willing to throw it, willing to run it and willing to get us lined up and execute.”
Bell’s misfortunes continued as Criggall would force a fumble defensively, giving the Buccaneers at the Bell 45-yard line. On the next play, David kept it going right on the quarterback power and went the distance for his second touchdown rush of the night.
“It feels good that we have a solid foundation (in the run-game),” David said. “We have a giant running back (Coker). We have me, I can run the ball pretty well. We have our receivers that are all tough.”
Clark explained that while the Bucs try to remain balanced offensively, the rainy weather forced them to run the ball more often.
For the third time in a row, Bell turned the ball over, this time on the ensuing kickoff, leading to a touchdown pass from David to freshman Thomas Sikes.
With 43 seconds left in the half, Branford led 25-0.
The dominance carried into the second half as Buccaneers’ receiver Arkayvion Jones took the opening kickoff 70 yards for a touchdown.
Bell found limited success in the second half as Powell hit Patterson Wiles for a deep pass to put the Bulldogs across the 50-yard line and then added a 26-yard run after it looked like he was brought down in the backfield.
However, a turnover on downs ended any momentum for the Bulldogs.
In the fourth quarter, Malaguti got into the endzone on a 10-yard run on a reverse, putting the game on a running clock with 8:58 left.
Branford looks to carry their momentum into next week as they host Williston (2-0), while Bell looks to get back on track on the road against Taylor (1-2).