November 18, 2017

Braves Triumph in Epic War at Staples

Brave seniors pose with some of the coaches and the Pulpwood Classic Trophy after a huge 35-28 win over Callaway at Staples Stadium Friday night

(Franklin, GA) — In high school locker rooms all around the nation Friday night, coaches told players all those things that coaches always say to try and inspire an underdog victory over bigger and more talented teams. In at least one of those locker rooms — in Franklin, Georgia — the players listened.

The Heard County Braves pulled off one of the biggest wins during Coach Tim Barron’s tenure and arguably the biggest win in school history.

Friday the 13th in 2017 will always be memorable for those who packed into Staples Stadium to watch the Braves defeat the No. 2 ranked team in the state and Region 5-AA arch rival Callaway by a final score of 35-28.

It would be wrong to call what happened Friday night a game — it was more like a war that the Braves refused to surrender. It was undoubtedly an instant classic.

The Braves would never trail but also would never lead the game by more than seven points. Most importantly, the Braves would never stop fighting.

Coach Barron talked to his team all week about getting off to a good start and the Brave defense responded to that when senior Jaden Moreland intercepted Callaway’s first pass from scrimmage after great coverage on the opening kickoff.

The Cavaliers would respond as well on defense and take over at their own 8-yard line. A monster hit from Aaron Beasley would help thwart that drive to give the ball back to the Braves and after a long carry by quarterback Emory Jones, Beasley would punch it in to give the Braves an early 7-0 lead.

From there it truly was like a heavyweight fight that just went back and forth. After the Cavs quickly tied it up at 7-7 and held on defense the Braves would get a second turnover, this time an interception from Andrew Leak.

The Braves would score next on a rush from Jones to go up 13-7 and a Jakab Moon PAT would make it 14-7. Moon was a perfect 5-for-5 on his PAT’s Friday night.

Tray Owens recovered a fumble for the Braves to end another Cavalier drive in the second quarter. The Braves had three huge takeaways in the first half.

Late in the half, Coach D.J. Curbow’s defense would get two huge stops including a huge stop on 4th and short from inside the five. The Cavs would get it back in good field position in the closing moments of the half but the Braves again would not allow them points and the score was 14-7 Braves a the half.

Aaron Beasley suffered a horrible looking gash to his nose while making another big hit late in the second quarter, but refused to stay down for the count and returned for the entire second half. The Braves did lose starting two-way sophomore Micaiah Austin in the first half to an ankle injury.

Despite the halftime lead, Brave coaches knew they would face a big challenge in the second half versus the much deeper and fresher squad on the other side of the field.

With most Braves playing on both sides of the ball, conditioning and off-season work would play a big role in the outcome of this one.

Although the Braves were clearly exhausted even as early as the third quarter — they still kept fighting.

The Braves opening drive of the second half ended with a fumble and the Cavaliers quickly turned it into a TD and the game was again tied at 14-14.

On the ensuing drive, the Braves would respond with another long drive fueled primarily by not the arm but the legs of Emory Jones. Jones broke away on a 59 yard run to the Cavalier one yard line and then punched it in himself to regain the lead for the Braves at 21-14. Jones rushed for 106 yards on just 10 carries in the game.

The Brave defense got perhaps the biggest play of the game when Huzzie stripped a runner of the ball after a long run and it was recovered by David Urquilla near the Cav sidelines.

Despite that great play Callaway’s defense would force another Brave punt and the Cav offense would again respond against the exhausted Brave defense with a touchdown drive to tie the score at 21-21 with just 9:33 to play in the game.

The Braves again refused to let the game be tied for long as on the next drive Aaron Beasley scampered 51 yards for his second touchdown of the night to put the Braves back on top 28-21 with 7:56 to play.

The Cavaliers would respond yet again with a scoring drive capped off by a touchdown on 4th and four from deep inside the red zone to know the battle yet again at 28-28 with 5:12 to go in the game.

The Braves appeared to be on the ropes and completely out of energy at this point — but they again would not give up the fight even facing a third-and-17 from their own 19. With 3:15 to go in the game Jones found Alijah Huzzie at the Brave 45 and he would take it for 74 yards to the Callaway 12 yard line sending the crowd at Staples into a frenzy.

Beasley would take it in for his third TD of the night to make it 35-28 with just 2:20 to play. Beasley rushed for 192 yards on his 26 carries behind the Brave offensive line composed of juniors Jaden Cameron, Michael Cheney, Brenden Thompson, Urquilla, and freshman Anthony Graley. It took ER doctors eight stitches to close the gash in Beasley’s nose late last night after the game.

The depleted and exhausted Brave defense would have to answer one more time and they did. After leaving the field with cramps just moments before, Huzzie would haul down an interception on a deep pass tipped up in the air by Beasley with just 40 seconds to play to secure the upset win and one of the biggest if not THE biggest Heard County win ever at Staples Stadium.

Several Braves had big games defensively including senior Kendaz Goode, Tray Dunson, Andrew Leak, Tray Owens, Kesean Johnson, and Qua Thornton.

The win puts the Braves in the driver’s seat for the Region 5-AA Championship and also brings the Pulpwood Classic trophy back to Franklin for the first time since 2012.

Coach Tim Barron was extremely emotional about not just the win — but the fight and determination his team showed all night long against an opponent loaded from top to bottom with scholarship athletes.

“This was just another Heard County team that shows heart and grit and does things they shouldn’t physically be able to do — but they just find a way to do it,” said Barron after the game.

“Tonight shows just how much fight and character these kids have. When you win one that close and that tight against such a talented bunch like Callaway you just have to have great plays everywhere — and we had that tonight.”

Coach Randall Curbow’s offense had 401 yards of total offense on the night including 301 on the ground.

Emory Jones was also excited to get his first win over the arch rivals along with some of his oldest friends from just down the road.

“That win tonight means everything to me we worked so hard for this and conditioned so hard these past two weeks,” said Jones after the game. “I grew up playing recreation ball with a lot of those guys and I am glad I finally get bragging rights and can say we beat Callaway.”

As he always does, the very cordial Jones spent a long time after the game doing interviews with the various media outlets and taking photos with Brave fans young and old. Jones thinks his team can do big things come state playoff time.

“It’s God’s limits for this team. We work so hard for this through the week and it just means so much. Our coaches are just wonderful — if you just do what they tell you to do it’s always going to work out. I think we have the best coaching staff in the state and I just love them,” Jones says.

The Braves (6-1, 2-0) will host Jordan (1-6, 0-2) in another region contest for homecoming next Friday night.

Comments

  1. The Chemistry Teacher says:

    Attaboy Luther!

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