January 17, 2022

Braves Battle Hard in Loss to Bulldogs

(Franklin) — The Braves varsity football team put up a strong fight Friday night in a 24-10 loss versus the visiting Macon County Bulldogs at Staples Stadium despite playing the game with a depleted line-up on both sides of the ball due to injuries.

Head coach Tim Barron and staff knew last spring when they scheduled five non-region games with some of the top teams in the state that the early part of the season might be a difficult proposition.

They also knew full well that coming out of that stretch of games, a 1-4 record would be a strong possibility. What the staff did not count on was a literal laundry list of injuries during those games.

“Coming into this game we as a coaching staff just wanted one thing — and that was to play with effort and energy and be physical,” said Barron after the game.

“You know last week (at Cedartown) we didn’t do those things which is so uncharacteristic of all the teams we have had. Tonight, however these kids came out and played the way we expect them to play football — I’m awfully proud of the energy, the enthusiasm, and the excitement I saw tonight. We know if we can do that next week and and continue to do that as we get these guys back healthy then everything else will take care of itself.”

Despite the young, inexperienced line-up Barron’s squad responded with a solid effort against the very physical Bulldogs Friday night — especially on defense.

Defensive coordinator D.J. Curbow’s guys showed early on in the game that they would not be intimidated when they stopped the Bulldogs on their opening possession after an Ethan Brant interception with 9:40 to play in the first quarter.

Quarterback Emory Jones and the Braves offense then promptly drove down the field and capped the drive with a 37-yard field goal by kicker Collin Nutt to take a 3-0 lead after the first quarter.

The Braves special teams then jumped into action recovering a Nutt onside kick and setting the offense up once again near midfield but the Bulldog defense responded back with a three and out. With 8:46 to play in the half, the Bulldogs tied the game at 3-3 on a 40-yard field goal.

Another Brave senior and two-way starter Pearce Kirk had to leave the game before the half with a concussion leaving the Braves even further short-handed.

The Bulldogs capitalized quickly on a fumbled kickoff return and took a 9-3 lead and then added a 44-yard TD pass with under two minutes to go in the half to lead 16-3 at the break.

The Braves came out in the second half and responded with a great effort before falling by the 24-10 final. The defense continued to play well with the highlight being a turnover recovered by Diamond Delgado.

Other offensive highlights included a nice fake punt for a first down by Austin Barron in the fourth quarter. Barron scored the lone TD for the Braves from two yards out on 4th down in the fourth quarter.

Barron’s score was set up by an awesome 13-yard run by freshman Carlton White where he dragged a huge pile of Bulldogs for the last five yards to near the goal line. “When you look at that play on film you will probably see 10 maroon jerseys trying to help move that pile — every player trying to help his brother — as a head coach that is what you like to see,” said Barron.

The Braves were without several key players in pads Friday night including all state seniors Duranta Dunson and Elijah Toney, as well as the leading tackler from last week’s game junior Hunter Lane.

The Brave Nation was also proud to see one of the JV players, freshman Kearney Balat back on the sidelines after he suffered a severely broken leg at Wednesday’s practice and had to be hospitalized overnight before being released late Thursday.

One positive outcome of the injuries this season for Coach Barron and staff has been the emergence of a new generation of Braves playing hard and competing after being more or less forced into playing time much earlier than anticipated.

“A handful of young players really stepped up tonight for us due to these injuries. You’ve got a sophomore Mike Holmes in the secondary and a freshman Jaden Moreland really competing and shutting some guys down. You know we had Ethan Brant out there having to change positions from OLB to ILB this week and Brant played a heck of a game tonight. You know you look up and you got Ryan Moody and Peyton Ehlers out there playing hard and having fun, said Barron.

“Austin Dean is a guy that just does exactly what we coaches ask him to do and because of that he puts his body in a position to make some plays. Jacob Bishop got some time on the offensive line tonight and Coach Yates is looking forward to being able to see that on the film as we get ready for our first region game next week.”

The Braves return to Staples Stadium next Friday for the first Region 5-AA game with Chattahoochee County. The Panthers appear to be much improved this season already sporting a 3-1 record with wins over Hardaway, Crawford County, and Randolph-Clay. It will also be homecoming week for the Braves.


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