January 23, 2022

Braves stun No. 4 ranked Haralson County Rebels

Chief Borders (#14) celebrates his first Brave touchdown with Skylar Thomas (#117) during the first quarter of Thursday night’s 26-12 win at No. 4 ranked and previously unbeaten Haralson County (Photo: Chan Holliday)

(Tallapoosa, GA) — The Heard County Braves shook up the Region 5-AA standings Thursday night when they pulled off a demonstrative 26-12 road win over the previously undefeated No. 4 ranked Haralson County Rebels.

Coming off of the team’s second bye week, the Braves bounced back from three consecutive tough losses to score the huge win that also brings major state playoff implications for all five teams in the region.

The Braves defense was the story of the night, shutting down a potent Rebel running game that hadn’t been slowed much this season.

Chief Borders had a huge game for coordinator D.J. Curbow’s defense as he finished the game with 21 total tackles including three for a loss.

The Braves made a statement on the very first drive of the game stuffing the Rebels and highly-touted QB Clay Hyatt on three straight plays. The Braves offense would not waste anytime responding after taking over near midfield after the game’s first punt.

Capping off the drive, Maurice Fench found Borders on a touchdown pass to put the Braves up 6-0 early following a missed PAT. The 16-yard pass reception was Borders’ first TD as a Brave this season.

The Braves defense continued to stymie Hyatt and the Rebels offense with the Braves holding on to the 6-0 lead until late in the second quarter when a Brave turnover led to a Rebel scoring drive.

The Rebels also failed on the PAT attempt to leave the game knotted at 6-6 with 4:04 to play in the first half.

Maurice Fench would respond on the ensuing drive, leading the Braves on a three plus minutes drive that ended with Fench finding Ayden Cannon in the end zone on third and goal to give the Braves the 13-6 lead with under a minute to go in the half.

The Braves received the second half kickoff and promptly continued to out the pressure on the heavily favored Rebels as Fench again found Cannon to make the score 19-6 after a blocked PAT attempt.

The Braves defense came up with another pivotal play in the game when Cedric Ware recovered a Hyatt fumble to halt a promising Rebel drive early in the fourth quarter.

A 17-yard Ashton Bonner touchdown run with just 8:08 to go in the game extended the lead to 26-6, a lead the Rebels would not be able to bounce back from despite a late score that brought the final score of 26-12.

Along with Borders, several Braves had big nights for a defense that swarmed the Rebel ball carriers all night long. Up front, big Jackson Akins accounted for 12 tackles, while Anthony Graley and Skylar Thomas also finished with double-digit stops with 11 and 10 respectively.

Senior Leroy Marsh likewise played a huge role with nine tackles with Nathan McClellan and Tyler Lasseter each finishing the night with eight tackles.

Bonner played extremely well in the secondary breaking up four of the Rebels’ 10 passing tries.

The Brave defense kept the potent Rebel offense in check most of the night allowing just 228 total yards of offense.

Fench led the Braves offensively, completing 12 of his 21 passes for 139 yards and the three TDs. The junior QB also rushed for 29 yards on three touches.

Ashton Bonner led the way in the backfield rushing the ball going for 132 yards on 21 carries including the score.

Senior Tae Gray left the game with an early knee injury after rushing it three times for nine yards. The Braves offense racked up 323 yards of offense for the night.

Brave head coach Tim Barron was pleased to see his team fighting hard for all four quarters on the road.

“I’m just proud of the kids for being physical for all four quarters tonight. We knew how physical they were going to be and we challenged the kids all week and  they (Haralson) do such a good job and we knew it was going to be a challenge,” said Barron after the game.

“We haven’t been a physical football team all year and that is just so different than what a Heard County team normally is — but to see them be so physical and to see them when they got hit hard to bounce back up and just come right back — it was good to see,” Barron said.

Coach Barron knows the schedule doe not getting any easier the last two weeks as the Braves prepare for two more extremely tough region games, the first at home versus rival Bremen next week in a Friday the 13th showdown, followed by the regular season finale on the road against No. 1 ranked Callaway on November 20.

“In this region, it’s a dang good football team every week so you’ve got to bring it for four quarters and if you don’t we saw what can happen two weeks ago,” said Barron about the upcoming region slate. “We played a real good football team (Temple) and didn’t play well for all four quarters but tonight we did.”

The Braves (5-3, 1-1) control much more of their own destiny in Region 5-AA after the win.

The Braves’ easiest path to a region crown would be a win in their final two games coupled with a Temple loss to either Bremen or Callaway to close out their season.

Region 5-AA matches up with Region 8-AA in round one of the GHSA Class AA State Playoffs set to beginning on November 27.

All five Region 5-AA teams are currently alive for the four payoff spots, but each team will want to avoid the No. 4 seed as that would likely mean a long round one state playoff road trip to Rabun County to face South Carolina commit 5-star QB Gunner Stockton and the No. 3 ranked Wildcats.

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