The opening game of 2006 for Coach Jimmy Barnett's Briarwood Academy Buccaneers was properly labeled "The Backyard Battle." The game, played on Thursday, Aug. 31, in Waynesboro against the Edmund Burke Spartans, was the first high school football game in the state for the new season.
It was a hard-hitting match-up between two of the top GISA Class AA teams in the state. And in the end, both squads played to a very respectable 14-14 deadlock.
"This was just a great game between two good schools, where there was a great, friendly atmosphere between all the fans," Coach Barnett said. "Hitting wise, I don't know if I've ever saw a better game between two very hard-hitting teams."
Coach Barnett said he was proud of his players.
"The biggest surprise to me on our part was the way we hit them," he said. "The Spartans were bigger than we were, but we went toe to toe with them. They thought we would roll over and play dead when they hit us, but all of our players showed heart and determination, and we hit them."
This game with Edmund Burke did not come without a major loss to the Briarwood roster. Buc senior Quarterback David Russell will probably be out of action for two to three weeks due to a severe hip pointer injury. Russell also is the holder for extra point and field goal kicks and is a punter.
The freak injury came before Russell took his first snap from center. On the first defensive series, Russell was playing linebacker when he suffered the agonizing injury to his hip.
"A hip pointer is a deep bone bruise, and it is a slow injury to heal," Coach Barnett said. "It will take time for Russell to be back, and right now, it looks like he won't be back until we play Thomas Jefferson in a couple of weeks on Sept. 22."
The Spartans put the first points on the board with five minutes left in the opening quarter, when EBA's quarterback faked a handoff to Fullback Chad Smith and kept the ball around end for a 50-yard touchdown run. The attempt for two points failed, thus the score became 6-0.
"On this series for Edmund Burke, they faked a punt and gained a first down to keep the ball," Coach Barnett said. "This play eventually led to their opening score."
Once the Bucs did get possession of the ball, it was up to Sophomore Chase Walker to lead the offense in Russell's absence.
"We started against the eight-ball from the get go," Coach Barnett said. "With Russell out, I knew that I had to get our sophomore quarterback Chase Walker ready for action. So, while I calmed him down and talked to him on the sidelines, I started Joseph Batrous at quarterback for the first four plays."
The Bucs stayed with a basic set of plays initially, branching out as Walker became more comfortable.
"The first half was shaky for us, and to throw a sophomore quarterback into a contest of this nature and magnitude was tough," Coach Barnett said.
The Spartans increased the lead to 14-0 late in the first half when their quarterback ran the ball in from the two yard line on the first play following a Briarwood turnover. Smith bulled his way into the end zone for the two point conversion. This score was setup as a result of a botched pitch-out from Briarwood's Walker to Kyle Ewest.
The Buccaneers finally struck blood with 0:49 left in the first half on a 50-yard pass play from Walker to Batrous. Chris Gerlach successfully booted the PAT, but a costly penalty took the point off the board. After the penalty yardage was assessed, Gerlach tried again, but the kick was blocked, making the score 14-6.
"We had several good passes from Walker on this drive, and several great runs from Batrous and Jacob Gay. After Batrous initially caught the pass for the score, he broke a couple of tackles and got loose down the left side of the field for the touchdown," Coach Barnett said.
With four minutes remaining in the game, the Spartans started a very decisive drive. During this series of plays, the Spartans ran a quick-pitch sweep and scored a touchdown, but their end was penalized for clipping, and the ball was brought back. EBA then ran a play to their big fullback, who gained four to five yards. However Ewest ripped the ball away from him for a fumble.
The Buccaneers then produced a 55-yard scoring drive that would eventually tie the score at 14-14. With less than two minutes to play in the contest, Walker hit key passes to Joesbury and to Cane Gilmer to move the Bucs down the field. Gay also had a strong run from scrimmage during this series of plays.
On fourth down on the Spartan six yard line, the Buccaneer offense went into a spread formation, and Gay took the handoff from Walker on a trap up the middle. He ran right up the gut for the touchdown to make the score 14-12.
On the two point conversion, the Bucs split Joesbury out wide and ran an in and out pattern to him on the sidelines, where Walker hit him with a pass for the tying two point conversion.
On the ensuing Spartan drive, Davis Griffin recovered an EBA fumble in the closing minute of the game to enable the Buccaneers to get down to the EBA 20 yard line after several big plays from Walker, Gerlach, Batrous, Joesbury and Ewest. Gerlach attempted a 37-yard field goal with nine seconds left on the clock to win the game. However, his kick went under the bar and the score remained deadlocked at 14-all.
Gay was the leading rusher for Briarwood with 55 yards on six carries. Gerlach had 41 yards on eight carries, and Batrous had 12 yards on five attempts.
In the passing column, Walker went 13 of 25 for 197 yards and one touchdown. Batrous had five catches for 109 yards and one score, Joesbury had 60 yards on four catches, Gerlach had 18 yards on three catches and Ewest had one catch for 10 yards.
The Buccaneers will play host to Robert Toombs Academy this Friday night, Sept. 8. Currently, RTA is ranked No. 2 in GISA Class A.
"Robert Toombs is a very aggressive team, and our game plan for them is simple," Coach Barnett said. "We have got to control the ball, limit their possessions and put points on the board."
Briarwood 14 - Edmund Burke 14
Player of the Game: Sophomore Quarterback Chase Walker completed 13 of 25 passes for 197 yards and one touchdown. He came on to lead the Buccaneers in the absence of senior quarterback David Russell who suffered a hip pointer injury.
Play of the Game: Late in the fourth quarter, Briarwood's Kyle Ewest ripped the ball away from Edmund Burke's fullback Chad Smith. After recovering the fumble, the Buccaneers scored the tying touchdown.
Up Next: The Buccaneers will play host to Robert Toombs Academy Friday.