From the moment Keystone Heights running back Reggie Thomas stomped on a Bradford jersey as he led his team on the field Friday night, it was evident that an intense rivalry border war was about to be waged. But when the dust settled, a determined and resolved Tornado team was left to savor a big victory as the Derek Chipoletti era made a successful debut-19-7.

The Indians had owned this series in recent years, reeling off 4 consecutive triumphs. It would have been understandable if the Tornadoes would have hung their heads after fumbling at the Indian 5 yard line on their opening drive-or later when a perfect pass was bobbled into the air and into the waiting arms of Keystone's Zach Lambert -who gave the Indians a 7-0 lead at the half with a 56 yard pick-six.

BHS did not lose its poise and in fact slowly but surely imposed its will on the Indians in the second half with a methodical ground game and stifling defense. Any life left in Keystone was snuffed out by two great defensive stands where the Tornadoes stopped them on downs at the 5.  3 unanswered touchdowns later, it was over.  

Among the heroes was Devin Paulk, who made a shoestring tackle on Reggie Thomas on a 4th and short play to stop one of those crucial KHHS drive at the 5. He later picked off a pass late in the game to seal the deal. Oh by the way-he played with a cast on his hand. Other defenders such as Manning, Clark, Williams, etc made big plays at key moments.

Sophomore QB Austin Chipoletti also demonstrated resolve,shaking off the interception to efficiently lead a balanced Big Red attack-accounting for nearly 200 yards of offense. Yakeem Griner was a favorite target. Little Chip was so good at play fakes he fooled the entire officiating squad who blew a whistle early thinking he had handled off-only to see that the young signal caller had strolled into the end zone. Again, BHS overcame the bad break to score 3 plays later-on a dive play by KHHS transfer RJ Buxton.

Keystone deserves a lot of credit for their gritty effort. They kept the game close despite having to start a 3rd string QB due to injuries. Chuck Dickinson teams are always well prepared-and Indians Defensive Coordinator Wayne Geiger is a true wizard when it comes to devising effective schemes.

But the story was Bradford's ability to shake off some bad Karma and fight through adversity en route to a season opening win on the road in a rivarlry game.

So..the"'Fightin' Chipolettis" have the look of a team that will battle you from opening kickoff to final whistle. Buckle up..this season has a chance to be one wild ride!

Tune in this Friday night for the regular season home opener vs Fernandina Beach. Pre-game coverage will get underway at 7:15.