FAIRFIELD — There will be a new champion in Class B football this season.

Lawrence upended defending Class B champion Brunswick 17-12 in a Pine Tree Conference Class B semifinal Friday night at Keyes Field.

The Bulldogs (6-3) return to the regional final for the first time since 2014, when they fell to the Dragons (2-8) 48-19.

Though fighting through injuries, Lawrence managed to impose its will on offense, particularly in the passing game. Quarterback Braden Ballard was 8 of 9 passing for 140 yards and a touchdown.

“It’s just the greatest feeling in the world (to win),” Ballard said.

The Bulldogs scored on their first possession of the game, marching 53 yards down the field before Ballard hooked up with wide receiver Jared Dodge on a 5-yard slant for a touchdown. Zack Nickerson’s extra point gave Lawrence a 7-0 lead.

Dodge finished with 63 yards on three receptions. Fellow receiver Garrett Richards had three catches for 54 yards.

“The offensive line did a great job,” Ballard said. “They gave me time, the receivers got open, and we got the catches.”

Nickerson also connected on a 22-yard field goal before the end of the half. Sending the Bulldogs to the locker room with a 10-0 lead.

“It was definitely important to come out and start quick (offensively),” Lawrence coach John Hersom said. “We wanted to generate some emotion, get the enthusiasm going. That was important. Another thing that was important was, during our time off, we managed to put in some different formations and use our pass game as well as Isaiah (Schooler) — our only healthy running back – to give them a different look.”

Lawrence added another touchdown on its first possession of the second half — a 1-yard plunge by Schooler — that almost seemed to seal the game with a 17-0 score.

Schooler was a workhorse for the Bulldogs in the run game, totaling 100 yards on 28 carries.

But Brunswick wasn’t done. The Dragons notched their first score with five minutes remaining – thanks to a 1-yard run by Owen Richardson – to cut the lead to 17-6. After a bad punt and strong return by Nate Girardin to the Lawrence 5 yard line, Dalton Dickey scored on the very next play, a 7-yard touchdown scamper that brought Brunswick back in the game with a 17-12 score.

The Brunswick defense managed a four-and-out on the next drive, and had the ball on their own 45-yard line with 1:19 to play. But the Bulldog defense held their ground, forcing their own four-and-out to end the game.

“Give credit to Brunswick, they continued to battle hard,” Hermon said. “I knew we’d have some adversity at some point. We handled just enough (of the lead) to get it done.”

Dickey paced Brunswick with 64 yards on 13 carries.

Lawrence takes the season series with the victory — it prevailed 23-20 during the regular season.

Dave Dyer — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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