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Bradford relies on legs of tailback Willie Pollard to lead them in win, district title over Palatka

Pollard rushed for a game-high 219 yards and scored three times in the Tornadoes Class 2A-Suburban, District 6 clinching win

PALATKA, Fla.- Gunning for a eighth shutout of the season, the Bradford Tornadoes ran up against an inspired Palatka Panthers team.

Heading into the game, the Tornadoes had compiled seven shutout victories on the year and had allowed only one touchdown. The Panthers were able to score one on them, but that would be all they would allow.

Bradford’s swarming defense forced multiple turnovers and got a huge lift from running back Willie Pollard as the Tornadoes clinched the Class 2A-Suburban, District 6 championship after defeating Palatka 35-14 at Bennett-Cooper Field.

Bradford improves to 9-0 on the season after beating Palatka 

Bradford improves to 9-0 on the season after beating Palatka 

“Willie Pollard is a starting running back at a lot of places without Manny Covey,” Bradford head coach Jamie Rodgers said. “So now the show is his. Some young junior varsity guys got some carries in key situations tonight. Willie is a home run guy every time he touches it.”

The Tornadoes improved to 9-0 on the season with one game to play and the Panthers fall to 7-2. With the district championship all wrapped up for Bradford County, they’ll close out the season next Friday against Suwannee on the road.

On Friday night, offensively it was truly all about the running from the diminutive Pollard, who ended up rushing for 219 yards on 29 carries and scored three times. 

Pollard had to take on the bulk of the carries due to a season ending injury to running back Manny Covey. The first of Pollard’s three touchdowns on the night came in the opening quarter on a 5-yard scamper to put the Tornadoes up 7-0.

“Manny Covey got hurt so I had to step into a big role,” Pollard said. “I had to do what I had to do and just grind.” 

The Tornadoes did try to get their passing game going initially with Power 5 athlete Chalil Cummings, who ended the evening with three catches for 56 yards. 

Bradford (9-0) got up 14-0 when quarterback Jeremiah McKenzie (5-of-8, 73 yards) found open tight end Chason Clark on a 15-yard strike. It looked like the Tornadoes would blow the game open when they took a commanding 21-0 lead on Pollard’s second touchdown, a 15-yard sprint.

That’s when Palatka (7-2) would start to show a little bit of fight just before halftime as Bradford would end up yielding its second touchdown of the season. Panthers’ running back Tyran Bush scored on a six-yard run to make it 21-7 the score heading into intermission.

Palatka’s opening possession out of halftime would prove to be the most crucial one, but it would end up being a quick drive. The Panthers would hold strong in the third quarter up until the 4:34 mark when McKenzie scored on a two-yard run to put the Tornadoes up 27-7.

From there, the Tornadoes would regain full control of the game and never look back. Bradford would add one more touchdown from Pollard to go up 35-7, with Palatka adding a touchdown in the final minutes.

“We started a little slow,” Palatka head coach Patrick Turner said. “I think our kids were in shock at what they thought (Bradford) was and hey, they’re human guys. That third touchdown they got came on third and eighteen, they got a huge penalty and ended up scoring. We score and if we didn’t give that up, we go into halftime down 14-7.”

Andy Villamarzo can be reached at and follow him on Twitter @Andy_Villamarzo.