BY TYLER HEMSTREET
On the positive end of several offensive shootouts, the Bethel Braves had failed to score less than 40 points in a game just once this season.
But the Braves showed Friday night they have the ability to win tighter, lower-scoring affairs as well.
Quarterback Justin Hordyk passed for one touchdown and rushed for a couple more, and the Braves’ defense held off Bothell’s late surge as Bethel held on for a 24-22 victory in a Class 4A preliminary round playoff game at Art Crate Field.
Bethel (8-2) moves on to play the winner of tonight’s Curtis-Woodinville game on the road.
“We knew we had to put in four quarters to get it done against them,” Bethel coach Gavin Kralik said. “I thought it might be a little more high scoring than this but our defense played great. People have underestimated our defense all year but they came up big tonight, as they have many times throughout the year.”
Leading 24-16 at the end of the third quarter, the Bothell’s Danny Wilson scored on a 47-yard touchdown run on the opening play of the fourth quarter. But the Bethel defense swatted away a short pass on the two-point conversion to keep the lead at 24-22.
But Bethel went three-and-out on its next two drives.
“We didn’t execute as well as we did in the first half … that’s just something we have got to work on,” said Hordyk, who rushed for 113 yards and passed for 119.
But Bothell (6-4) struggled as well, turning the ball over on downs at the Bethel 35 yard line with 4 minutes, 13 seconds left. The Braves took over and leaned on Hordyk — who completed an 8-yard pass to John Thompson to pick up one first down — and David Fontenette, who converted another first down on the ground to run out the clock.
“He’s a guy the kids love to play with and for and I couldn’t have a better leader on this team than him,” Kralik said of his quarterback.
Fontenette came up big earlier in the second half as well, catching a short pass from Hordyk and cutting 39 yards up the middle for a touchdown to give Bethel a 21-10 lead with 8:10 left in the third quarter. Fontennette finished with 54 yards rushing and six catches for 79 yards.
“We like those plays … got to get the rock in (Fontenette’s) hands,” said Hordyk, who’s getting recruiting looks from Army and Air Force. “I feel like we’ve got pretty good weapons all over the field.”
Ryan Smolko’s 30-yard field goal pushed the Bethel lead to 24-16 after three. Early on, it looked to be a shootout as the Cougars scored just 27 seconds into the game, needing just three plays to go 67 yards. Seymour Otterbech finished the drive with a 27-yard touchdown run.
Hordyk scored on a 10-yard touchdown run to even the score.
After Bothell took a 10-7 lead late in the first quarter, the Braves answered again with a long drive, and Hordyk finished it again, this time scoring on a 2-yard run to give the Braves a 14-10 lead with 8 minutes left in the half. After gaining 128 yards of offense in the first quarter, the Cougars ran just eight plays in the second quarter.