Fake punt call sparks Elizabeth Forward past Freeport, into WPIAL 3A semifinals
Friday, November 12, 2021 | 10:52 PM
With Elizabeth Forward facing a 4th-and-7 with 3 minutes, 15 seconds remaining in the first half Friday night, coach Mike Collodi made a call in the hopes of his team some much-needed momentum.
Charlie Nigut ran for an 18-yard gain on a fake punt and, three plays later, DaVontay Brownfield broke a scoreless tie with a rushing score to give fourth-seeded EF a spark en route to a 14-6 victory over fifth-seeded Freeport in the quarterfinals of the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs at Warriors Stadium.
With the win, the Warriors (9-2) advance to the semifinals for the second consecutive year. They will meet top-seeded Central Valley next week at a site and time to be determined.
“I called it from the sideline and said if it’s a certain look, let’s go with it,” Collodi said. “It’s something we’ve been working on for a couple of weeks, and we had it in our back pocket to use. We knew we’d need it at some point, and that was the moment. We knew it would pay off.
“I think that provided some energy in a hard-fought game.”
EF was unable to muster much offensively in the first half as its first four drives resulted in three punts and an interception.
On his team’s fifth possession, however, Brownfield stepped up.
He rushed for 38 yards on a 13-play, 79 yard drive that he capped with an 8-yard touchdown run, giving the Warriors a 7-0 lead heading into halftime.
“We just knew this couldn’t be our last game,” Brownfield said. “We knew what we had to do.”
Brownfield was a consistent force, rushing for 40 yards in the first half and finishing with a team-high 154 yards on 23 carries.
“I can’t even describe what DaVontay means to our football team,” Collodi said. “We have so many weapons and someone different steps up every week. It’s just a testament to the unselfishness of our entire team. No one cares about touchdowns or stats, we just want wins. Tonight was DaVontay’s night.”
Like their counterparts, the Yellowjackets (6-5) generated over 100 yards of total offense early but could not find the end zone. Their first-half drives resulted in three punts, a turnover on downs and a missed 42-yard field goal by Vincent Clark in the final second.
Freeport did, however, generate a pair of turnovers while also capitalizing on a critical miscue by EF late in the third quarter.
An errant snap went over the head of Nigut on a punt attempt, and he was tackled at EF’s 17-yard line. Three plays later, Shane Jack scored on a 2-yard scamper to cut Freeport’s deficit to 7-6 after a missed PAT.
“EF was big up front, and it was difficult to move the ball. We threw everything at them and they might have flinched a little bit, but they have a very good team,” Freeport coach John Maillot said. “Our kids were tenacious, and for it to be 14-6, it’s a testament to them. We just have to regroup and move forward.”
Leading by one early in the fourth quarter, the Warriors wasted little time gaining further separation.
On its ensuing possession, EF capped a 7-play, 64-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Zion White that pushed the lead to eight.
White completed 3 of 3 passes for 49 yards on the drive.
“These guys showed heart, resiliency, a no-quit attitude and a ton of toughness,” Collodi said. “I preached we had to play four quarters against a good team like Freeport. We were ready for it, and these guys responded. I couldn’t be any more proud.”
Despite the differential, Freeport didn’t waver.
After the Yellowjackets were forced to punt, they regained possession at EF’s 28-yard line on an interception by Zach Clark. The pick was the second of the night for White.
Freeport reached the 13-yard line and were faced with a 4th-and-10 before a pass to the end zone by Ben Lane was broken up by Nigut, a freshman defensive back, to force a critical turnover on downs.
“We told him this week he was no longer a freshman,” Collodi said with a laugh. “He now has 11 games under his belt, so he’s not a freshman anymore. He just made a big play for us there.”
EF regained possession after the turnover on downs and milked the clock with Brownfield leading the way. He had over 50 yards to help seal the win, including a 22-yard run on third-and-9 in the final two minutes.
“My line made big holes for me tonight,” Brownfield said. “I credit them for what I was able to do.”
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