December 12, 2017

Dream season ends with agonizing loss at Staples

(Franklin, GA) — An amazing postseason run for the Heard County Braves football team came to a close in heart-crushing fashion Friday night at Staples Stadium when the visiting Hapeville Charter Hornets scored a go-ahead touchdown with just 5.3 seconds to go in the game to defeat the Braves 28-21 in a GHSA Class AA semifinal.

Brave fans were lined up at the ticket booth at 4:30 Friday afternoon a full hour before the gates opened to secure a good seat for the Braves first ever trip to the state semis.

Senior Brave kicker Chris Carroll embraces his dad after Friday night’s heart-wrenching loss to Hapeville Charter (Photo: Jessica Gallagher/Times-Georgian)

These fans would each get more than their money’s worth as they witnessed a see-saw affair that featured lots of highs and lows for both squads.

The first quarter got off to an equal start as each team put together a scoring drive on their first possession. The Hornets took just over four minutes to take a 7-0 lead after receiving the opening kickoff keyed by a couple of big third down conversions.

Emory Jones and the Braves would respond with a long drive of their own culminating in a short TD burst by Aaron Beasley to knot the score at 7-7.

The two key plays of the drive came on a Jones fourth down rushing conversion from the Hornet 43 and a huge pass play from Jones to Jaden Moreland. Moreland battled tooth and nail for the ball on a 35-yard pass play in that looked originally like it would be a Hornet interception to set up the score.

The first momentum changing play of the night would come in the form of a pick six interception from Alijah Huzzie. Huzzie jumped a route and scampered 50 yards down the visiting sidelines to put the Braves on top 14-7 and send the enormous home crowd into a frenzy.

A post score penalty would give the Hornets good field position in Brave territory after the kickoff and in short order they would tie the game at 14-14 following a five play drive and a 27-yard TD pass on third down.

The Braves would battle all the way down to the Hornet five yard line just before the half but a penalty and a big sack by the Hapeville defense would leave the Braves empty after a fourth down incompletion.

The Braves would get off to a great start after taking the second half kickoff and put together a 10 play 69-yard drive to make the score 21-14. It was again Beasley finding pay-dirt on a 35 yard rush to cap the drive.

Kicker Jakab Moon drove the PAT through the uprights to give the home team the 21-14 lead with 7:17 to go in the third.

From there all the scoring would come from the Hornets as they tied the game at 21-21 late in the third and then went on to score the game-winning TD with just seconds to go in the game.

The Braves had opportunities to take the lead but a fumble deep in Hornet territory with 3:02 to play would give possession to the Hornets.

The Braves defense did a good job to hold them and force a punt but the next Brave drive would end on downs when the Braves came up short near midfield on a 4th down and one with 50 seconds to play in the game.

Head coach Tim Barron talked about the decision to go for it on 4th down in that situation.

“I just say to those kids that I am sorry. I wish I could take it back and redo that call but I can’t. They played their hearts out they played to win and because they believed they could win they were in position to win. Now I am going to have to look them in the eyes forever and ever and wish I would have made a different call,” said an emotional Barron after the game.

Barron says this was the toughest loss he has endured as a coach. “We were just so close — we were right there and we just wanted so much to do this not just for ourselves but for this community,” Barron said.

Hapeville Charter advances to the Class AA State Championship game next week in Atlanta where they will meet Rabun County. Rabun defeated Brooks County 23-12 in the other semifinal game at home.

The Braves finish a remarkable season where they set a new school record for wins with 12 and advanced further than any other Brave team has in the past. They also tied for the longest winning streak at 11 games.

Despite the loss of the uber talented starters Jones, Moreland, and Kendaz Goode, the Braves do return nine starters on each side of the ball and should be contenders again in Class AA next season.

 

Comments

  1. Tim Massa says:

    Coach Barron hindsight is always 20/20. The citizens of Heard County are so Thankful and Proud of the awesome job you have done with the football team since you have been here at Heard County. The way you and your staff have shown our Braves to play with class no matter win or lose. Since you and your staff have been here no one can say that ya’ll have not shown how and what to do playing the game of football. But, more important you have shown the player’s how to handle themselves which later in life they will be able to remember things you taught them about life. I think of the teams in the past when football first started here at Heard County, all of us as former player’s see what the program has grown too and we feel a pride deep inside for the teams that you have gotten so close to the ultimate prize. State Champs. With you and your staff I honestly think our Braves will Win the Big Game. Thanks for all you have done for our Community.

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