Friday night’s clash between Region 5-AA’s only undefeated teams lived up to the hype at Staples Stadium as junior Quarterback Jonathan Hunt led the Heard County Braves to a 28-21 comeback overtime win over the Manchester Blue Devils.
Most of the water cooler talk leading up to the big game all week was focused on the Braves offense which was averaging 44 points per game versus the Blue Devils defense which was only allowing eight points per game.
After the Braves defense forced the Devils to punt on the first drive of the game, the Braves offense responded with a nice drive capped by a 43-yard TD rush by Duranta Dunson to put the Braves up early 7-0.
The second quarter belonged to the Blue Devils who came up with several big plays. With 8:50 to go in the second the Devils scored on a hook and ladder play to even the score at 7-7.
An onside kick on the ensuing kickoff was recovered by the Devils who wasted very little time punching the ball into the end zone once again for the 14-7 lead.
The Braves defense struggled to stop the Devils after spending the majority of the first half on the field. The Devils defense looked as good as advertised shutting down the Braves offense for most of the first half.
Hunt set the pace early in the third quarter when he broke several tackles on a 3rd and long to give the Braves a much-needed first down. After a long pass set the Braves up at first and goal inside the Devils 5-yard line, a series of miscues forced the Braves to punt on a 4th and goal from the Devils 32.
After the Braves defense forced a three and out the offense took over once again. Dunson broke away on a wild 60-yard run to the Devils 8-yard line. Dunson electrified the crowd on the run by shedding several would be tacklers and changing directions several times.
Hunt then rushed it in for the score. Coach Barron elected to go for the two-point conversion which was stopped by the Devils so the Braves still trailed 14-13 at the end of the 3rd quarter.
The Devils answered quickly with an other score early in the fourth leaving the Braves trailing 21-13 with 10:51 to play in the game.
The Braves offense bounced back quickly as Hunt scored again this time from 24 yards away to pull the Braves within two at 21-19. Hunt scampered in on the keeper two-point conversion to tie the game at 21-21 with 7:47 to play.
On the next Devil series Tori Rogers made a big interception for the Braves but the Devils answered with an interception of their own on the very next play to reclaim possession.
Dalton Pate recovered a Devil fumble on the next play sending the Staples crowd into a frenzy once again. Both teams had chances during the waning moments of the fourth quarter but neither side could capitalize so the game headed to overtime.
The Braves went on offense first at the Devils 25 and wasted no time as Hunt scored his third consecutive touchdown. Freshman Collin Nutt added the big extra point to put the Braves on top 28-21.
The work was not done however as the Blue Devils would get a chance to match the score on offense.
The Devils drive would end quickly on a Ta Freeland interception to seal the big come from behind win for the Braves (6-0, 4-0) putting them clearly in the driver’s seat in Region 5-AA with just four regular season games remaining.
The Braves out-gained the Devils 345-269 for the game but the Braves defense really stepped up in the second half allowing only 91 yards to the Devil offense.
Dunson was held under 100 yards rushing (91) for the first time this season but was huge on defense with 17 tackles. The Braves continue the region schedule next week when they face Jordan for homecoming.