The night started with a dedication to a former coach. It ended with the current one wearing all smiles.
Prior to Friday's playoff game, Brookville re-dedicated its field to legendary leader John "Bunker" Hill, who coached four sports, including the football team for 18 years, as part of a 37-year career as teacher and athletic director at the school. Hill died Oct. 30 at age 98.
Brookville dedicated the field to him several years ago. But a small sign was the only marker indicating the honor. On Friday, Hill's name took a prominent spot on the football scoreboard and fans paid their respect.
Then the game started and the kids showed up. Brookville turned on the offense and its defense quickly figured out Rockbridge's pass-heavy spread attack in a 57-12 rout on John "Bunker" Hill Field at Stinger Stadium.
Rockbridge (5-6) entered the Region 3C quarterfinals having ended Brookville's season in 2019, and the Wildcats brought along once again 6-foot-4 quarterback Miller Jay. Jay didn't waste time, unloading a pass on the outside edge to receiver Keswick Owens on the game's first play from scrimmage. Owens took the ball 65 yards for a 6-0 lead.
But over the next couple series, Brookville's defense toughened up, and its offense hummed from the outset.
"It's never easy when a team scores on the first play of the game. That's the ultimate punch in the face," Brookville coach Jon Meeks said. "So I was proud of my guys for not getting rattled, and we came out and responded."
The Bees (7-3) took a 7-6 lead five plays later when Tayshaun Butler punched in an 8-yarder. Seven minutes later, quarterback Drake McDaniel spied Stephen Preston sprinting downfield and unloaded a 35-yard touchdown pass that Preston caught over his shoulder. The rout was on. Brookville scored 21 points in the first quarter, led 28-6 at halftime and poured on 22 more points in the third quarter before capping the night with a TD from backup QB Jordan Kiger and receiver Ben Bennett.
Butler rushed for 216 yards on 12 carries and scored four times, on runs of 8, 54, 20 and 52 yards. McDaniel completed 4 of 9 passes for 125 yards and rushed for an additional 91 yards. He accounted for three scores as Brookville put up 538 yards of total offense.
"I think tonight we came out more as a team than we have all season," McDaniel said. "The thing in my head was, my freshman year when I started they beat us and all the senior friends I had, I let them down. I wasn't gonna do that to this team. Not to this team. So that was my mindset the whole game."
Jay threw for 234 yards for Rockbridge, completing 23 of 44 passes. But Brookville made it difficult on the senior after the first quarter. He didn't find the end zone again until the Bees already had a commanding 50-6 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Meeks finally got the chance to put his 16-year-old son, Bryson, into the game. Bryson has autism, is considered high functioning, and loves football. He's been practicing kickoffs for weeks in the hopes of getting into a game in a blowout scenario.
So with 6:38 remaining in the third quarter, officials let Rockbridge know Brookville would like to insert Bryson into the lineup. And then he bounded on the turf wearing No. 24, and kicked the ball five or six yards.
Jon Meeks was all smiles. "It meant a lot to me," the coach said.
The moment also meant a lot to senior receiver Steven Pauley, who helped Bryson onto the field and aided him during kickoff. "Bryson he's always there with us, at least a couple days a week he's at practice," he said. "So it means a lot to get him out there with his boys."
Pauley developed a relationship with Jon and Bryson Meeks as a freshman. Pauley's mother works in a group home, so he's passionate about caring for others.
"So when I saw Bryson, me and him, I just felt a really, really strong connection," he said.
Meeks also stopped play after McDaniel fired off his second TD pass of the night, this time to insert Matthew Parker, a 5-11, 260-pound senior. Parker is also autistic, and he ran in a 2-point conversion to make the score 50-6. Meeks had officials let Rockbridge coach Mark Poston know he was sending in Parker before that play and that he was not trying to run up the score.
Parker, Meeks said, gives maximum effort, even during stretching and warmups. He wanted to honor the senior.
So a gang of Brookville players carried Parker into the end zone, and his conversion sent the BHS crowd into a panic.
"He's just become a team favorite," Meeks said. "And the kids really wanted to get him in. I told [Poston] he was just gonna run up the middle and if you stop him, you stop him. He's earned the right to get this carry. And I think the line blocked as hard as they've ever blocked on that play."
McDaniel helped push Parker into the end zone. "He's a very intelligent kid," McDaniel said. "He's not a very playful kid, not a very goofy kid, but he's a fun person to be around. He's always about working and getting stuff done. I would say he's probably the perfect person to be."
Friday's affair could be the final home game for BHS. The Bees play Heritage at City Stadium in the Region 3C semifinals next week. So McDaniel soaked in the moment under the Brookville lights.
"We got a big dub out there tonight," McDaniel said. "We definitely went out with a bang."
Brookville 57, Rockbridge County 12
R — Keswick Owens 65 pass from Miller Jay (kick failed)
B — Tayshaun Butler 8 run (Joshua Ayers kick)
B — Stephen Preston 35 pass from Drake McDaniel (Ayers kick)
B — Butler 54 run (Ayers kick)
B — Butler 20 run (Ayers kick)
B — McDaniel 33 run (Ayers kick)
B — Butler 52 run (Ayers kick)
B — David Schmitt 51 pass from McDaniel (Matthew Parker run)
R — Joshua Wright 20 pass from Jay (pass failed)
B — Ben Bennett 5 pass from Jordan Kiger (Ayers kick)
Rushing — Rockbridge: Turner Cook 1-6, Andreas Poindexter 7-26, Seamus Looney 2-3, Jay 1-(minus 6), Elijah Fox 1-4. Brookville: Butler 12-216, McDaniel 7-91, Silas Rucker 6-25, Steven Pauley 1-4, Jaylyn Marshall 3-32, Addison Ellis 1-3, Kiger 3-33, Michael Viar 1-4.
Passing — Rockbridge: Jay 23-44-2 (234), Fox 1-1-0 (minus 2). Brookville: McDaniel 4-9-0 (125), Kiger 1-1-0 (5).
Receiving — Rockbridge: Owens 9-87, Isaiah Williams 5-65, Cook 4-34, Looney 1-2, Wright 3-34, Garrett Claytor 1-12, Tucker Hopkins 1-(minus 2). Brookville: Preston 1-35, Schmitt 2-85, Micah Pennix 1-5, Bennett 1-5.
Records: Rockbridge 5-6. Brookville 7-3.
Next: No. 3 seed Brookville travels to City Stadium to play No. 2 Heritage on Friday, 7 p.m.