Wearing a cast so large it almost resembled a club on his broken left hand, Ethan Brawdy began hounding North High School football coach Joey Paridaen about returning to the lineup in the first half.
By late in the third quarter, Paridaen relented.
It wasn’t always pretty. Brawdy dropped a couple of snaps out of the shotgun formation at first. But he found a way to forget all about his cumbersome cast and lift the Huskies to a stirring 29-26 come-from-behind victory over Reitz on Friday night at the Bowl.
He said he hated watching from the sidelines the previous week as sophomore Sam McKinney guided North to a win over Harrison.
“It took everything I had not to run on the field with the guys,” said Brawdy, a three-year starter at quarterback. “We had a great backup quarterback in Sam McKinney.”
But he wasn’t going to lie. He started bugging Paridaen about putting him in, like John Fogerty in the baseball anthem “Centerfield.”
“I knew they were going to need me if the game was close,” Brawdy said. “If they needed me I was ready to go in.”
Despite the cast, it wasn’t really a difficult decision for Paridae.
“Well, it was just a culmination of things,” he said. “We had to make sure he was in a position to be able to come in the game, first and foremost. We saw some things with Brawdy in pregame that made me feel comfortable about putting him in.
“He’s a gutty kid, man. He’s one of the toughest kids I’ve ever coached. He’s just a tough hard-nosed kid. He was not going to let (the cast) stop him. It was a no-brainer, even with his casted left hand.”
After momentarily dropping the snap out of the gun, Reitz quarterback Nate Staley not only recovered, he found Isaac Maynard open for a 55-yard scoring strike that put the Panthers on top, 26-21, with 3:33 to play. However, Staley’s pass on the two-point conversion attempt, intended for Alex Clark, fell incomplete.
A touchback on the kickoff gave North the ball at its 20. Brawdy raced for 23 yards on the first play of the drive and moved the ball near midfield. The Huskies mounted a 10-play, 80-yard drive that ended with Brawdy diving in from the 2-yard line. He then threw a two-point conversion pass to Cameron Gehlhausen to give the Huskies a 29-26 advantage.
Brawdy said his second touchdown, the game-winner, was a great call by the coaching staff.
“I knew we had a really good offensive line,” he said. “It was just a ‘quarterback lead up the middle.’ ”
On the two-point conversion, Brawdy rolled out and found Gehlhausen, who “made a great stretch with his arm.”
North senior running T.J. Hankins had another outstanding game on the ground, rushing for 211 yards on 29 carries and a touchdown. Brawdy ended with 11 fourth-quarter attempts for 67 yards rushing. He also completed 10 of 15 passes for 79 yards.
Last year, the Huskies started 5-0 only to finish 5-5. This season, they began 0-2, and have now won two in a row entering this Friday’s home game against Bosse (2-2).
“It’s always tough to start off with Castle and Memorial,” Paridaen said. “I really think our best football is in front of us.”
At the outset, it appeared to be a bit of a game of attrition. Not only was Brawdy injured, Reitz’s leading rusher, Jonas Burnett, was out with a broken humerus. He may be sidelined for the season. Jay Smith stepped into the breach, gaining 114 yards on 20 carries, including two touchdowns for the Panthers (2-2).
Staley picked up 63 yards on the ground on five carries while completing 21 of 37 passes for 267 yards and two scores. Maynard caught 7 passes for 105 yards and one touchdown. Sophomore Roland Vera also gained 101 yards on four receptions.
But North, led by Brawdy, came on strong at the end.
“I knew we had to battle,” he said. “We had to want it more than they did. It means a lot coming in at 1-2 and I think it’s big to get back to .500 and beat a good team like Reitz.”
He said the Huskies are going to surprise a lot of people.
“We dropped our first two games. We made some mistakes and played kind of sloppy,” Brawdy said. “But we’re getting back to the first half of last year. We knew we were a winning team and we had to play like one.”