TALLAHASSEE — Concerned with Maclay’s big-play ability, the Branford High football team hoped to start strong Friday night.
But despite an early 14-0 lead, the Buccaneers couldn’t hold off the Marauders, who used a punt return touchdown from Robert Parker-Crawford to rally for a 22-14 win.
The special teams touchdown was Parker-Crawford’s second of the game and helped tie the game at halftime.
The Marauders then used an 82-yard touchdown pass from Brecht Heuchan to Ian Widener in the third quarter for the game-deciding score.
“We gave up one big play and that was the difference,” Branford coach Tim Clark said.
Branford (1-1) jumped out to the two-score lead in the first quarter behind a few big plays of its own.
The Bucs went up 7-0 when Clay Williams made a leaping grab of a Seth Heiderman pass from around 35 yards out.
Then, after a big pass from Heiderman to Junior Cress, Colton Leibold scored on a speed sweep from 28 yards out for the 14-0 lead. Heiderman completed 13 of 19 passes for 217 yards with one interception. Liebold had five catches for 55 yards in addition to the TD run.
But that was all the Buccaneers could muster against a small, quick Maclay defense.
“We were unable to consistently move the ball,” Clark said, adding Dakota Hamm ripped off one long run but was injured at the end of it, further limiting Branford’s offense. Hamm finished with 82 yards on eight carries prior to leaving in the third quarter.
Still, despite the pregame concerns with Maclay’s offensive firepower, Branford’s defense kept the Bucs in it.
“I’m proud of our defense,” Clark added. “There was just three or four plays that they made. But we had a shot at the end.”
Getting the ball back deep in their own end in the final minutes, though, Branford was unable to score.
Branford returns home to host rival Bell on Friday. The Bulldogs are 0-2 after falling to Franklin County and Keystone Heights.