The Briarwood Buccaneers played erratically on offense Friday night, but the Bucs combined a few plays and stellar defense to upset the Thomas Jefferson Academy Jaguars 7-0 last Friday at Briarwood.
The Bucs are going to have to combine their stellar defense with stellar offense if they want to upset Class AA's number one ranked Bulloch Academy Gators this Friday night in Statesboro.
Briarwood's Offensive Player of the Game Tyler Wester breaks away from a Thomas Jefferson defender.
"No doubt about it, we're going in as the underdogs again," Coach Jimmy Barnett said. "Anybody who is going to be in the playoffs this year is going to see Bulloch because they're going to be in the finals."
Although in the same class, GISA AA, as the Gators, the Bucs are not in the same region as Bulloch. Bulloch is in Region 2AA with such traditional Briarwood foes as Trinity Christian Academy of Dublin and Pinewood School of Bellville.
The Gators are led by "probably the premier player in the GISA, regardless of classification," according to Coach Barnett. The Gators' tailback and linebacker, Harry Collins, at 6'1", 215 pounds, can bench press 400 lbs., and he's a sprinter.
"He can fly," Coach Barnett said. "He's one of the fastest kids in the GISA. You don't see it often, but he's got it all. He's being recruited by a number of Division 1A schools, including the University of Georgia."
The Gators take full advantage of Collins' talent, according to Coach Barnett.
"If you've got a big gun, shoot it, and they do. They give it to him all night, and they get it to him in all kind of different ways," Coach Barnett said.
"We don't have a superstar. We've got 11 kids playing together as a team, and that's what could beat them," Coach Barnett said. "I think we're up to it."
Briarwood's Jacob Gay drags down a Thomas Jefferson runner.
Coming off the emotional upset of Thomas Jefferson should give the Bucs an edge, also, Coach Barnett said.
"You're not going to see a better high school football game than was played here Friday night," Coach Barnett said. "It was a tremendous contest between two great, great football teams. They played us just as hard as we played them.
"Our defense provided the edge," he continued. "I just can't say enough good about our defense. They shut down TJ's high-powered offense."
The Class A Jaguars outscored their opponents, Region 1AA teams Curtis Baptist School and Edmund Burke Academy, 65-15 in the first two games of the season. The Jaguar offense allowed each team only one score.
The defensive front played extremely well, and even better, they "played with intensity," according to Coach Barnett, who said the linemen - Jacob Gay, Andrew Johnson, Jason Dunham, Will Quinn and Chase Wilson - kept the inside "stuffed," allowing linebackers Tyler Wester, David Russell, John Spivey, and Kyle Ewest to make the tackles in close.
The linebackers played their role well, containing the runners on the outside while taking advantage of the linemen's play and making inside tackles up close.
Tyler Wester sets his sights on a Thomas Jefferson runner.
The defense also proved up to the challenge when, on the second play of the second half, the Bucs fumbled on their own 31-yard line. TJ recovered and drove to the five where the Bucs stiffened and held the Jaguars' vaunted offense to only one-yard per carry. With fourth and goal on the three-yard line, the defensive front again jammed the middle and stopped the runner on the two.
"They had four chances to score inside the five and didn't make it," Coach Barnett noted. "That kind of play sets the tone for the rest of the season."
The defensive battle was marred by only one score, and that score was set up by the Bucs' defense - a blocked punt by linebacker Jacob Gay that was recovered by on the Jaguars' 32-yard line.
The Jaguars donated the Bucs an extra 15 yards on an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, and the Bucs began their first and only scoring drive on their own 18-yard line. Three plays later with a fourth and four on the 12-yard line, quarterback David Russell threw to end Dave Joesbury on a slant pattern for the TD. Chris Gerlach kicked the extra point for the 7-0 lead.
"He just gets better every week," Coach Barnett said of sophomore Joesbury. "He's catching the football right now. I expect him to have a great future."
The Bucs threatened again in the third quarter when senior Tyler Wester raced 76 yards to the Jaguar eight. Three plays later a TJ defender pulled off "a great interception" in the end zone on a fourth and goal for the Bucs.
Tyler Wester breaks away from the pack.
"He's back," Coach Barnett said of Wester, who has been playing with a series of injuries.
Wester led the Bucs on the ground, gaining 95 yards on six carries. He was also the leading tackler on defense. He was named the Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts on offense.
The Bucs gained 219 total yards, 21 of those passing, to TJ's 152 yards.
Senior Jason Dunham received Defensive Player of the Week honors for his play at nose guard. In addition to playing a major role in "continually stuffing their inside line and allowing our linebackers to make the tackle," Dunham made the initial hit on the Bucs' goal-line stand.
Briarwood 7, Thomas Jefferson 0
Star of the game: Tyler Wester was the Offensive Player of the Game and Jason Dunham was the Defensive Player of the Game.
Play of the game: In the first quarter, Quarterback David Russell connected on a fourth-down, 12-yard pass with Dave Joesbury for the Bucs' only score.
Up Next: Briarwood (2-1) hits the road to play Bulloch Academy.