Romelo Bracy stood in the midst of his family, in a loving, exuberant embrace.
He got hugs, high fives and pats on the butt from friends, teammates and family walking by.
He’s a junior, he’s a defensive back, and he’s a backup.
They call him Melo.
For most of the season, Melo hadn’t seen the field very often. But he played when it mattered Friday night, and he made it count.
Bracy’s interception late in the fourth quarter sealed a 34-31 win for CDO against Gilbert Higley in the first round of the Division III state playoffs. The eighth-seeded Dorados will play No. 1 seed Gilbert Williams Field next week.
“We’ve been working for this all week, then for him to come in for that play meant the world to our team,” said receiver J.J. Metz, “and now we get to go on to another week.”
In a game filled with big plays — a 99-yard Metz touchdown catch, for one — Bracy’s might have been the most important one.
“I don’t know,” Bracy said, shaking his head in disbelief. “I just read it the whole way. I do everything for my brothers, my teammates.
“They motivate me to go out there and play well, and I love all of them.”
The pick came as the Dorados (10-1) tried to hold onto a three-point advantage late in the fourth quarter. Bracy was inserted into the game to cover Nick Colson, Higley’s 6-foot-5-inch, 225-pound receiver.
Bracy is listed, generously, at 6 feet and 133 pounds.
There was a little more than three minutes to go, and the Knights were moving down the field with relative ease.
Bracy wasn’t intimidated, though, and snared the interception with 2:59 left.
“I’ve been prepared all weekend and all week, and they put me in, I was ready to go,” Bracy said. “I haven’t had a better moment in my life. But, I did it for my team. I have a lot of confidence, I guess.”
The lead that Bracy helped preserve, though, came because of the combination of a bunch of big plays — from the offense in the first half, and the defense in the second.
The biggest one was Metz’s 99-yarder.
After an impressive defensive possession, which saw Canyon del Oro stuff Higley three times at the 1-yard line, the third time forcing and recovering a fumble from their quarterback, CDO ran the ball for no gain.
On the next play, Jordan Closs-Lopez took the snap, spotted Metz streaking past his defender and hit him in stride. Metz broke a tackle, and he was off to the races.
“We saw the safety shift over far to the left,” said Metz, who finished with 125 receiving yards on four catches.
“I just took my pass straight down the middle. Me and Jordan are on the same page.”
The touchdown gave CDO a 14-6 lead .
Higley came back quickly and scored on an 18-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tyler Bloom to Trent Gilbert to make it
14-12, but the Knights went for two and failed, for the second straight time.
Then, on Higley’s next touchdown, a six-yard rushing score from Ricky Marshall, the Knights went for two again. And failed, again.
Later, they had an extra-point attempt blocked by CDO.
Those four points proved to be the difference in the game, but Metz’s touchdown certainly helped, as did Bracy’s interception, three Max Smith rushing touchdowns, a 69-yard passing score to Thomas Sawyer in the second quarter and a Sawyer fumble recovery at the end of the third quarter.
So, it was a game of big plays. The two teams combined for 590 total yards in the first half, and 914 yards total.
“There was so many big plays, and that’s what I told the kids,” CDO coach Dusty Peace said.
“This was a team effort, from a 99-yard touchdown to Tom’s long touchdown to the interception to a fumble recovery. It was just awesome to see our team respond with our backs against the wall, looking our season in the face and coming out in the second half and responding.”