BRUNSWICK — Aside from settling in with a new team, Brunswick football player Josh Pratt has also been getting used to a new position.
After running routes as a slot receiver when he played at Good Counsel the past two years, the junior has moved to running back during his first season with the Railroaders.
Granted, he has some history at the position.
“I played it all the way until the eighth grade, so I’m just learning how to read the holes a little bit better, get back in the routine,” Pratt said. “But we should get there.”
Fitting he used the word “we,” because what he said about himself there could easily apply to Brunswick’s entire team.
The Railroaders are loaded with young players, new starters and others thrust into different roles because of injuries or voids left by graduation. Not surprisingly, the lack of experience played a large role in Brunswick’s 22-12 loss to visiting Northern Garrett in the season opener Friday.
But as players get continued to get accustomed to their roles, the Railroaders feel like they have the type of team that can put together a successful season.
“We’ve just got to keep working,” Brunswick coach Jerry Smith said. “We’re a good team. We’ve just got to clean it up.”
One of the things the Railroaders need to work on are avoiding defensive breakdowns.
The Huskies’ Isaac Bittinger got wide open near the left sideline, where he caught a well-placed spiral from Zach Hallenbeck for a a 47-yard touchdown pass that gave the Huskies a 14-6 lead with 7 minutes, 21 seconds left in the third quarter. And that wasn’t the only costly defensive miscue for the Railroaders.
“We had a couple broken plays, and that’s where our youth kills us a little bit,” Smith said. “We need to be a little bit more patient and stay with our responsibilities and not get caught up in the scramble, let the linebackers and D-line deal with the scramble and just stay in coverage.”
The Railroaders also missed opportunities on offense. They fooled Northern on a double pass, but the ball was caught out of bounds. And a Blake Folden to Adjani Green touchdown pass, set up by Folden’s scramble, was negated by a holding penalty.
Back-to-back offsides penalties also gave Northern new life after back-to-back missed extra point kicks in the fourth quarter. That set the stage for Hallenbeck’s two-point conversion run, which all-but sealed the win for the Huskies by giving them a 22-12 lead with 4:35 left.
But there were plenty of signs of potential for Brunswick, too, despite recent adversity.
The defense got big tackles from players like Ben Nedrow.
Folden lofted a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jared Struss, who leaped and caught the ball in his outstretched hands to narrow Northern’s lead to 7-6 with 1:03 left in the second quarter.
“It was an RPO, so he was reading the linebacker,” Smith said. “The linebacker bit on the run, so he pulled and threw it.”
And after the Railroaders recovered a fumble, giving them a shot of momentum, they mounted a drive capped off by Pratt’s 1-yard touchdown run, narrowing the Huskies’ lead to 14-12 with 1:04 left in the third quarter.
Pratt proved to be Brunswick’s top weapon, rushing for 92 yards on 21 carries — he had a couple nice gains taking direct snaps — and hauling in four passes for 31 yards.
“He’s doing a nice job,” Smith said. “We’re asking him to do something different than what we was asked to do the past couple of years at Good Counsel. He’s getting a little more comfortable each game.”
Brunswick took some hits before the season even started.
Quarterback Wylan Harich, who was in a tight competition with Folden for the starting job, broke the thumb on his right throwing hand. Center Jeremy Whitworth is out with an injury, forcing the Railroaders to insert a tackle into that crucial position.
And another vital weapon, slot receiver and linebacker Michael Souders, is out with an MCL strain — though he is expected back soon.
That’ll be good news, especially for a 1A school, and Pratt feels good about the team’s future.
“I played with most of these guys all my life, and of course we have some new guys who moved in,” said the Knoxville native. “It’s a mixture. We’re learning to build with each other, which is good. But growing up, we’ve always had success, so we’re hoping to continue that. We’re not going to let this first game define us.”