July 24, 2021

Braves Fall to Spartans in ESPNU Heartbreaker

Brave captains for Saturday’s ESPNU game versus Saraland, AL were Jaden Moreland (#2), Brenden Thompson (#57), Aaron Beasley (#21), and Emory Jones (#6) (Photo: Rodney East)

(Cartersville, GA) — The Heard County Brave Nation traveled in force Saturday afternoon to North Georgia to watch Coach Tim Barron’s squad face the challenge of the battling the Class 6A Saraland, AL Spartans in the school’s first ever nationally televised football game on ESPNU.

An electric atmosphere filled Weinman Stadium on the campus of Cartersville High School for the ESPN doubleheader featuring four of the top quarterback prospects in the nation including of course the Braves’ senior Emory Jones.

The Ohio State commit and his Brave teammates did not disappoint as they battled the bigger school blow for blow before falling in a heartbreaking 17-14 defeat.

Many had predicted the Braves might struggle against the larger school with a much deeper roster and a highly touted QB of their own in Jack West who is bound for Stanford University, but it was actually Jones and the Braves who had the upper hand late in the game despite some key first half penalties and some missed opportunities.

On a 4th and goal from the two in the middle of the fourth quarter, Saraland sophomore Rashawn McAlpine carried it into the end zone to give the Spartans a 17-14 lead. On the prior play the Braves appeared to have stopped the drive on a 4th and goal from the five, but were flagged for a defensive holding penalty that gave the Spartans new life.

The game wasn’t over, however, as Jones quickly led the Braves deep into the Spartan territory. Jones appeared to have found a receiver in the end zone for the go-ahead but he was unable to haul it in and the Braves would miss a field goal on fourth down that could have tied the game and possible sent it to overtime.

It was a valiant effort all around by the Braves who had many athletes playing on both sides of the ball, including Jones for several plays after Aaron Beasley battled cramps late in the game.

Jones finished the game passing for 110 yards and a TD while rushing for 55 on 12 carries. He also logging some big tackles on defense. Despite being on the losing side of the scoreboard, Jones impressed ESPNU enough to be named the Geico MVP of the game. The senior signal caller began his long day by taking the SAT.

Junior Alijah Huzzie was the go to target for Jones in the game using his point guard hands to bring down five catches for 94 yards. West passed for 100 yards for the Spartans.

Another junior Aaron Beasley continued to be a force in the backfield for offensive coordinator Randall Curbow’s offense finishing the game with 126 yards rushing on 14 carries with one rushing TD. Beasley also hauled in the TD catch from Jones early in the fourth quarter to give the Braves their first lead in the game at 14-10. He now has six total TD’s after the first two games of the regular season.

The Brave offensive line played well led by juniors Jaidan Cameron and David Urquilla.

The Spartans led 10-7 at the half. McAlpine scored both TD’s for Saraland.

Despite the prolific offensive show that was predicted on both sides, it was the Braves defense that surprised the most. Defensive coordinator D.J. Curbow’s group fought tooth and nail to stop West and the Spartans in one of the best defensive efforts of the last two seasons.

Senior Kendaz Goode set the tone with a huge stop on the Spartans’ first play from scrimmage that led to a three and out to open the game.

Up front on the defensive line the Braves were led by strong efforts from senior Carlton Williams, sophomore Tray Owens, and again Urquilla.

Several back-to-back motion penalties would stop a good Brave drive on their first offensive series that had reached inside the Spartan red zone.

Following the Spartans first touchdown of the game early in the second, the Braves answered quickly to tie the back-and-forth affair at 7-7 on the short Beasley burst and the PAT from Jakab Moon. The key play on that drive was a fake punt pass from Huzzie to sophomore Micaiah Austin.

Coach Barron was pleased with the effort and character his team showed versus a quality opponent and with the added pressure of the game being televised nationally, but he knows they still have some things to work on as the season progresses.

“We beat ourselves today there’s just no other way to say it,” said Barron after the game. “We’ve got to get better at our kicking game. It’s tough when we graduated our snapper, holder, and kicker last year and now we have these guys that didn’t kick at all last year — not even on JV — it’s just something we have to work on and get better at.”

“We do know now that if can just handle our own business and clean up some of our mistakes we should be fine going forward and could be a pretty dang good football team,” Barron said. “But,most of all I was just proud of our effort today — with Emory out there repping for us on defense when we needed him most — and then guys like Kendaz Goode, Jaden Moreland, and Huzzie just playing their tails off.”

Despite falling by three on the scoreboard, the Braves out-gained the Spartans in yardage 333-151. The Braves defense was especially strong versus the run allowing just 36 yards rushing on 23 carries. Freshman Tae Gray saw some action with 27 yards on five carries.

Following the Saturday afternoon game, the Braves will be on a short week of rest as they prepare for this Friday’s road game at New Manchester High School in Douglasville.


  1. Had a chance to watch the game on ESPNU. Impressive showing for our Braves. Predict a good season if they keep playing like that. Saraland did not look like the bigger school on Saturday. Go Braves!

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