August 21, 2018

Injury-depleted Braves score OT upset in region finale

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(Columbus, GA) — A Brave roster riddled with injuries traveled to Columbus Saturday afternoon and pulled off an upset 16-13 overtime win over the Spencer Greenwave in the regular season Region 5-AA finale to earn a No. 3 seed in the GHSA Class AA State Playoffs that begin this Friday.

The hard-fought road win against the heavily favored Greenwave earned the Braves (7-3, 3-2 in Region 5-AA) a second place tie in the region with Lamar County (6-4, 3-2) and Spencer (6-4, 3-2).

Lamar County will be the No. 2 seed in Region 5-AA based on a tiebreaker point system involving non-region wins and the Braves edged Spencer for the No. 3 seed based on yesterday’s head-to-head win.

The loss was devastating to the Greenwave who could have earned the No. 2 seed with the win and the opportunity to host a state playoff game for the first time in 49 years.

The win was a gutsy one for the Braves who played without starting QB Emory Jones, back-up QB Alijah Huzzie, top rusher DayVin Troy, and starting defensive lineman Kezmann Kelley who all were inactive with injuries.

Senior third string quarterback Trey Alford managed the game well leading an old-school type Heard County offense which relied heavily on the running game with senior Mike Holmes carrying the majority of the load.

Alford and the Braves attempted just five passes in the game with one completion.

Holmes had 24 carries for 112 yards and a TD, with most of his damage coming in a first half where he gained 97 yards.

The rest of the scoring was provided by senior place-kicker Trey Wiggins who was 3-for-3 on field goal attempts including the 28-yard game-winner in overtime.

Holmes also had the big play on defense in overtime hauling in an interception as the Greenwave opened the OT with the ball on offense.

The defense was arguably the story of the game for the Braves, allowing no first half points and limiting an athletic Spencer offense to just 237 total yards with just 93 coming through the air.

Turnovers were a huge factor for the defense with another interception by Moreland and a first half fumble recovery from sophomore defensive lineman Jacob “Big Country” Stephens. Stephens also tallied the Braves lone solo sack in the game.

A quartet of Braves led the defense with double-digit tackles including Jonta Gray and Damion Hart with 14 each, senior Drew Hopkins with 12, and Moreland with 10.

Senior Peyton Ehlers continued to be a dominant force up front with nine tackles including three for a loss.

Ethan Brant, Austin Miller, Andrew Leak, and Luis Vasquez also had nice defensive efforts for coordinator D.J. Curbow’s defense.

The Braves led 13-0 at the half before Spencer was able to take advantage of a weary Brave defense late in the third quarter. A missed PAT by Spencer to end the third quarter left the game tied at 13-13 entering the final period.

The defense again came through with a huge stop after the Greenwave were first and goal inside the five in the final two minutes of regulation. After forcing a fourth down at the seven yard line, the Greenwave chose to forego a game winning FG try and instead tossed an incomplete fourth down pass into the end zone.

Alford and the Brave offense ran out the remaining ticks on the clock to force overtime.

“You know when you’re as banged up as we are and you have to change up the game plan and what you been doing offensively — for these kids to just come together and block for each other and care for each other and to win the way we did today in OT — I’m just awfully proud of our effort and our resilience today,” said Brave head Coach Tim Barron after the game.

“As coaches, we talk and preach so much about how football is like life and there’s adversity and you can’t control that — bad things are going to happen — but how you respond to that adversity is just huge –it’s huge.”

Barron was especially pleased with how his players responded late in the game Saturday afternoon when facing that adversity.

“We could have laid down when things were going bad in that third and fourth quarter but with our backs against the wall down there on the goal line we were able to keep them out,” added the Braves all-time winningest coach.

“We always talk about as coaches and players that you have to play with great effort no matter the situation. We can’t control the injury situation — it is what it is — but for us to just come together as coaches and players like we did today — I am just so proud of all of them today.”

The overtime game was the first for the Braves since a 28-21 home win over Manchester in 2012. Barron is 4-1 all time in overtime games with the lone loss coming at Whitewater in 2005.

The Braves are in the state playoffs for the 12th consecutive season under Coach Barron and have only missed the playoffs once in his 15 year tenure with the Braves, a remarkable run considering he inherited a squad with double-digit losses three times from 1996 -2001 and zero playoff appearances all in Class A.

The Braves will now travel to Rockmart this Friday to battle the Rockmart Yellow Jackets for the first time in school history.

The Jackets (8-2, 6-1 in Region 7-AA) enter the game having won seven of their last eight games with the lone loss coming to the top seeded 7-AA Pepperell Dragons.

Other Region 5-AA versus Region 7-AA first round match-ups will be Model at Callaway, Chattooga at Lamar County, and Spencer at Pepperell.

The winner between the Braves and Yellow Jackets this Friday will advance to meet the winner between Fitzgerald (No. 1 seed in Region 1-AA) and Dublin (No. 4 seed in Region 3-AA) on November 18.

To see video of Trey Wiggins’ game-winning field goal visit Heard County High School on Facebook.

 

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