This was the Ray Brodie the Memorial football team envisioned the entire offseason. It was simply bad luck it didn’t happen sooner.
In the first game of the season, actually the first play on defense, the senior was sidelined. An injury against Jasper cost him pretty much two full games. Maybe, he could have returned sooner. The Tigers kept him away out of precaution.
They can’t hide him any longer. Not after what he did at Romain Stadium on Friday. Not after what he did to one of the top teams in the area.
Brodie was the man of the night for Class 4A No. 14 Memorial in a 29-15 victory over Class 2A No. 2 Mater Dei. It wasn’t one play. He made a difference nearly every time he touched the ball.
An 86-yard touchdown run. A punt return for a score. A highlight-worthy hit to a defender. If Memorial handed out game balls, it belonged to Brodie.
“He’s got tremendous balance, great vision and he’s explosive,” said Memorial coach John Hurley. “If you can get those things in a guy who can handle the ball, good things are going to happen.”
Brodie was coy following his big night, characterizing it as ‘alright.” But his play on the field spoke louder than his words ever could.
With Memorial leading 6-0 in the second quarter, Brodie made his presence known. The line shifted left and he followed his fullback, Xavier Tyler, through a hole. Four defenders whiffed at attempts to tackle him. The sectional champion track star out-ran the rest for an 86-yard touchdown.
In the third quarter, it was a punt return from 40 yards. Again, his speed plus good blocking led to the touchdown.
“Every week, our line goes through stuff,” said Brodie. “I just wanted to make sure they were happy too. Running behind them every day gives me happiness.”
The senior running back had 40 yards and a score last week in his return. It was nothing compared to this. Mater Dei allowed only 26 points in the first three games. Its defense, notably the front line, rates among the best units in the area.
Brodie was tough and physical. Early in the third quarter, he slipped around the outside and blasted a linebacker out of bounds. He showed his speed on multiple occasions. Brodie unofficially had 219 yards rushing on 15 carries.
The senior gave credit to his line and his attitude in practice. Treat every moment like it’s a game. His teammates have noticed. They saw this coming.
“He’s a stud,” said Memorial quarterback Caleb Ellspermann. “Ray brings a dynamic threat. He can pass catch and blocks really well for his size. He’s just lightning quick.”
The Tigers (3-1) were the better team for most of the night. The front seven on defense had a performance worthy of the final score. The same goes for the offensive line. Tyler (113 yards) ran hard all night and found the end zone in the first quarter.
Memorial also didn’t make it easy. A quick touchdown midway through the third put Mater Dei on the board. A high snap on a punt led to another less than two minutes later. The Wildcats (3-1) trailed by one score going into the fourth.
Memorial’s best drive of the night put the game away. The Tigers knocked the defense back with multiple runs from Tyler and Brodie. With under 10 minutes remaining, Ellspermann faked a handoff and sprinted left. He raced 20 yards and dove for the pylon to put the Tigers up two touchdowns.
“If you’re going to play a Mater Dei team, you have to be a little bit different kind of tough,” said Hurley. “I’m not talking physically tough but mentally tough. We made a mistake and threw a pick. A bad snap on a punt. You have to be tough enough to come back from stuff like that.”
Mater Dei spoke during the week of needing consistency on offense to win this game. It’s why the Wildcats came up short. They couldn’t run the ball with much success. Add in a turnover in the red zone and allowing a special team’s touchdown.
Again, credit goes to Memorial in all regards. This team, notably the defense, faltered in week one because its opponent was tougher in the second half and upfront. That wasn’t the case against Mater Dei.
“I was really proud of the way they played tonight on both sides of the ball upfront,” said Hurley. “Mater Dei has done a great job stuffing people. That second week against Castle, they shut them down in the second half. We wanted to establish the run game.”
With 20 returning starters, the Tigers were viewed as potential conference and sectional champions. There are still five weeks left to determine the former, but this victory puts them back in the conversation.
Memorial knows there is still plenty to clean up. They pointed to the end of the third quarter. But this team is leaps and bounds better than it was three weeks ago.
“We were just beating ourselves,” said Ellspermann. “It’s all about getting locked in, doing it for your school and not for yourself.”