May 18, 2021

Braves fall to Grangers in opener

Heard County Brave captains take the field for the coin toss to open the 2019 season versus Lagrange Friday night at Staples Stadium. Left to right are Leroy Marsh (#8), Tray Owens (#4), Omarion Jackson (#15), and Anthony Graley (#63)

(Franklin, GA) — The Heard County Braves dropped its 2019 regular season opener by a final score of 24-9 to Class AAAA Lagrange Friday night at Staples Stadium during Hall of Fame Night.

The Braves started strong in the game after a 58-yard rush from junior running back Alex Boyd set up a 35-yard field goal from another junior James Newell. It was the first field goal of Newell’s career and put the home team on top 3-0 with 8:35 to play in the first quarter.

Boyd had 80 rushing yards in the first half of the game.

On the next offensive series, junior starting quarterback Leroy March connected with Micaiah Austin on a 58-yard bomb that extended the Braves lead to 9-0 after a failed PAT attempt.

From there it was all downhill for the defending 2018 Class AA Champions as an upstart Lagrange squad would keep the Braves offense at bay for the remainder of the night.

After the Braves controlled the scoring in the first quarter, the second quarter belonged to the Grangers as a field goal and a long TD pass put them on top 10-9 at the half.

The Braves would not manage a first down in the second half against a stiffened Granger defense was strong even in a 2018 season that saw the squad only win two games.

Two big touchdown runs by the Grangers would account for all of the second half scoring. One came by way of running back Kale Gibbs, and the other by the quarterback Charles Crawford, who also gave the Braves bad field position with his solid punting during the game.

It was a completely new look Braves team after losing a plethora of talented starters to graduation last year. Starting at the skill positions for the offense were receivers Ayden Cannon and Ashton Bonner, while in the backfield behind Marsh it was Boyd along with Kesean Johnson.

Up front on the offensive line were junior Drew Cornelius, senior Matt Brown, sophomore Jackson Akins, junior Anthony Graley, sophomore Isaac Walls, and the returning senior tight end Austin.

Graley and Austin are the only returning full time starters fro  2018. Drew Cornelius had one of the big hits of the night when he crunched a Granger punt returner for no gain.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Braves are led up front by preseason Class AA All-State pick senior Tray Owens and also return seniors Jai Wright and Kesean Johnson.

“I’m not surprised about the mistakes. I’m not happy about them, but there’s not much depth,” Barron said.

“It’s hot, and when you’re hot and tired you generally make more mistakes when you’re pressing. We gotta go to work, we gotta teach better, coach better, play better. We knew that there would be early growing pains. I think there were things we were much better than a week ago. And in two weeks we play a very talented Hapeville Charter team, and we need to play a lot better than we did tonight.”

The Braves are off this week before returning to Staples Stadium to face a highly-touted Hapeville Charter team on Sept. 6. The Hornets are considered to be one of if not the top contender to take this year’s Class AA State Title.

The Hornets are not an unfamiliar foe for the Braves and this will be the third meeting at Staples in the last three years. The Braves first fell 28-21 to Hornets in the epic state semifinal match-up in 2017 and then were defeated 33-3 in game two last year prior to the title run.

Barron knows his newly retooled young and inexperienced squad faces some big challenges in the always tough non-region slate of games.

“I firmly believe each week we are going to get better. The schedule is not getting any easier and the next few weeks are going to be very tough. We can either sull up and feel sorry for ourselves or we can go to work and get better and I have no doubt they are going to work hard and get better. We have to stay healthy — we’ve got to deal with this injury bug — and we’ve just got to stay together and we’re going to find out what these kids are really made of,” says Barron.

“The heart of Heard County and the Brave Nation are really going to have to get behind this bunch of kids because they are inexperienced… and there’s not a lot of depth… and they are going to need all the love and support they can get to help them keep moving forward in the right way.”

In other Region 5-AA results last week, Lamar County was the only team to get into the win column after defeating Mt. Zion in Barnesville 27-6. Callaway fell to a strong Opelika, AL team 10-7 on Thursday.

In Friday’s games, Jordan fell to Monroe 45-13 and Spencer lost to Columbus 20-14. Bremen lost to Rabun County 34-13 at Georgia Southern University in a special Saturday night contest.

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