December 7, 2021

Braves ‘Take Care of Business’ in playoff win over Douglass

The Braves plow through the banner and smoke prior to Friday night’s 27-6 win over Douglass. The braves will travel to Dublin next Friday night for the Class AA State Quarterfinals

(Franklin, GA) — The Heard County Braves continued with the ‘Taking Care of Business’ mentality Friday night at Staples Stadium where they upended the Douglass Astros 27-6 in round two of the GHSA Class AA State Playoffs.

The solid win over a team that entered the night at 10-1 earned the Braves a berth in the quarterfinals for the second straight season — a first in program history. It will be the Braves’ fourth overall appearance in the state quarters.

The Braves (10-2) will continue on the ‘Road to The Benz’ themselves hitting the road for the first time during these playoffs.

Coach Tim Barron and his squad will face a tall challenge as they travel south to Dublin, GA to meet the Fighting Irish for the first time in school history.

The Irish are a storied program led by 18-year head coach Roger Holmes and will be a tall challenge for the Braves.

It will be the second straight season the Braves have traveled south for a quarterfinal Black Friday Showdown and Barron hopes to recreate as 2017 where the Braves defeated Thomasville 28-14 — by sticking to the same routine of traveling down early on Thanksgiving Day to get his guys prepared for the huge match-up and hostile road environment.

The Braves started quickly in Friday night’s win over Douglass. Following a defensive stop to open the game, quarterback Alijah Huzzie found his favorite target LeQuincy Shepherd on a 52-yard TD pass on the first official play from scrimmage to put the home team up 7-0.

Despite the quick score through the air, it was the rushing game that offensive coordinator Randall Curbow would rely on for the majority of the game.

UT Volunteer commit Aaron Beasley again carried the majority of the load with 128 yards and a touchdown on 21 attempts. His second quarter 20-yard TD was one of his nicest runs of the seasons as he eluded several would be Astro tacklers.

Sophomore Alex Boyd carried the rock six times for 27 yards and a fourth quarter touchdown that sealed the win.

The Braves’ other score came on a Huzzie pass to Andrew Leak run where Leak took a big hit and fumbled the ball into the end zone and it was recovered in a timely fashion by Micaiah Austin for the score.

The Braves finished with 264 total yards versus a stingy Astros defense that had allowed just 15 points during their last five games — three of which were shutouts.

The Braves tough and experienced offensive line consisting of Michael Cheney, Jaidan Cameron, David Urquilla, Anthoney Graley, and Drew Cornelius were strong in the trenches up front to help pace the offense. Cornelius again got the start in the place of injured senior Brenden Thompson.

While the Brave offense had another solid night it was once again the vaunted Brave defense that controlled the game and especially the line of scrimmage from start to finish.

Several Braves had huge nights for defensive coordinator D.J. Curbow. Jai Wright had one of his biggest games of the season and was stellar on the Astros’ opening drive dropping the highly-touted Astro runner Juan Powell for two losses. Wright finished the night with 11 tackles, two sacks, and a QB hurry.

Big senior Zaylin Wood was again an unstoppable force up front for the Braves with 15 tackles including four for a loss. Wood put pressure up front all night and the four tackles for a loss establishes him as the new modern day Brave record holder with 30 for the season breaking the record set by Austin Dean in 2015.

Three other Braves recorded double-digit tackling nights as Andrew leak tallied 11 while Tray Owens and Urquilla each had 10. It was a huge night all around for Leak as he also hauled in two interceptions including one to end an Astor scoring threat to close out the first half.

Beasley recorded eight tackles defensively and Quay Thornton made some big plays and had six tackles including one for a huge loss.

The Braves ability to stop some of the top rushers in the state has been a key to the nine game winning streak and Friday was no different as the Braves held the highly-acclaimed Powell to just 66 yard on 27 rushes.

An East Carolina commit, Powell entered the game as the Astros’ all time leading rusher just ahead of former NFL star Jamal Lewis.

Coach Barron was pleased with the work put in all week long by his squad that lead to a strong victory.

“I thought the kids and our coaching staff did a great job of working hard this week — if you see us playing fast that means we prepared well during the week and that preparation is going to have to increase ten fold next week. We know we face a big challenge at Dublin and we will need a big Thanksgiving crowd to travel down there with us,” said Barron.

The Braves will kickoff at Dublin Friday night at 7:30 PM. The Irish (11-1) downed Thomasville 23-7 to earn their way into the quarters.

The Irish come in as the No. 1 seed from Region 3-AA and earned the home field advantage via the GHSA’s universal coin flip earlier this week.

The winner between the Braves and Irish will move on to the semifinals to face either Rabun County (No. 1 seed, Region 8-AA) or Fitzgerald (No. 2 seed Region 1-AA. Fitzgerald defeated Swainsboro 27-12 Friday.

The biggest upset of the night in Class AA came from fellow Region 5-AA state contender Callaway who shocked the state with a dominant 31-13 win over top-ranked defending champion Hapeville Charter.

The Cavaliers will host Washington County this Friday and will move on to face the winner of the final quarterfinal contest between No. 1 seeds Rockmart (7-AA) and Jefferson County (4-AA). Jefferson County will host the Yellow Jackets — the lone remaining undefeated team in Class AA.

Other West Georgia area teams advancing with wins Friday night included Troup County in Class AAAA, Carrollton in Class AAAAA and Mt. Zion in Class A Public. Troup will travel to Cairo next week to battle the Syrupmakers. Mt. Zion will host Clinch County. Carrollton will travel to Stockbridge.

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