September 26, 2021

Braves hold on for exciting 36-29 win over Dragons

Senior Braves running back Omar Jackson takes the rock on a huge 75-yard TD run during Friday night’s 36-29 win at Pepperell (Photo: Jeff Napier)

(Lindale, GA) — The Heard County Braves improved to 2-0 Friday night following an exciting and hard-fought 36-29 road win over the same Pepperell Dragon squad that eliminated the Braves from the state playoffs last season.

The Braves held on for the win despite losing several important players to injury throughout the game including star senior skill players Alex Boyd and Ayden Cannon.

Cannon picked off a pass early in the first quarter and returned it 24 yards for the games opening touchdown early in the game to set the tone for a game that would feature several big highlights.

Maurice Fench also found Cannon deep for a 79-yard TD pass to give the Braves a 13-7 lead after the first quarter.

Boyd had a big game rushing for 151 yards on 19 carries before being helped off the field early in the fourth quarter.

The highlight of the game came on a 75-yard second quarter touchdown run by senior running back Omar Jackson. Jackson broke numerous tackles during the run much to the delight of the large contingent of Brave Nation fans that made the trip to Lindale.

The Braves led 26-14 at the half.

Senior Ashton Bonner also had a nice night rushing the ball with seven carries for 91 yards and two scores. Bonner was huge after Boyd left the game accounting for nearly all the rushing yardage on a long scoring drive that gave the Braves a 36-21 lead with just 6:00 to play in the game.

The Dragons scored with just 3:38 to play to close the gap to 36-29, but the Brave offense was able to maintain possession the rest of the way thanks to some untimely mistakes by the Dragons including a crucial 15 yard penalty that helped the Braves keep possession after facing a 4th and long play.

Quarterback Maurice Fench continued to be solid under center for the Braves completing four passes for 137 yards in the game and Isaiah O’N eal rushed for 41 yards on just three touches.

The Braves big offensive line of Drew Cornelius, Jackson Akins, A.J. Rogers, Anthony Graley, and Isaac Walls led the way up front for an offense that accrued 512 total yards.

Defensively, O’Neal led the way with eight tackles. Other tackling leaders included senior Leroy Marsh with six and Boyd along with Bonner each recorded four stops. Nathan McClellan and freshman Jonathan Echols each had four tackles. The Braves defense allowed just 243 yards to the Dragon offense.

On special teams, senior kicker James Newell was very crucial in the win thanks to a couple of long kickoffs for touchbacks late and a successful 26-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.

Brave head coach Tim Barron was very pleased to see his guys fight so hard despite the adversity of losing several key players along the way.

“Such heart shown by both teams tonight. It was just back and forth. We talked at halftime about how well coached they are and we knew they would make some good adjustments at halftime. Pepperell is super well-coached and their kids always play hard,” said Barron after the game.

The coach knows his team is facing a strong challenge with all the injuries.

“We are beat up and beat to hell and back — I don’t know if I can remember a time where we were this beat up but you know we just can’t worry about the things we can’t control,” Barron said. “It has just got to be where the next guy up is going to have to fight his tail off to get ready. We will be praying a whole lot for all our players to get well and hopefully we will get them back sooner than later.”

Barron was especially proud of senior running back Ashton Bonner who came into the game already wearing a cast on his arm as well as all of the other players who had to step up in the heat of the battle.

“Without Bonner stepping in there late with fresh legs and making some big plays for us we may not have won that game,” said Barron. “The heart and energy we showed tonight — that’s what Braves football is all about — finding a way to win no matter what it takes. They didn’t have much left in the tank late but they gave us all they had and I am super proud of all of them.”

The Braves will return home this Friday to take on Manchester with the usual 7:30 PM kickoff at Staples Stadium. The Blue Devils fell to another team in Region 5-AA Friday night as they were upended by Haralson County 32-0.

Other Region 5-AA results included Callaway winning over Troup County 27-7, Temple defeating Central 14-7, and Bremen scorched rival Bowdon 59-22. Region 5-AA teams are currently a combined 9-0 to start the season.

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