Three second-half touchdowns by the visiting Thomas Jefferson Academy Jaguars spelled defeat for the Briarwood Buccaneers last Friday night, as the Jaguars rallied and posted a 29-12 victory.
"We played fairly well at times against Thomas Jefferson," said Briarwood Coach Jimmy Barnett. "However, we still made several mistakes, such as missing key blocks and committing turnovers. We will be working severely on these areas this week."
Thomas Jefferson, ranked No. 1 in GISA Class A, scored 22 unanswered points in the final 24 minutes of play to hand Briarwood its first loss of the year. With the setback, the Buccaneers now own a 1-1-1 record, while the Jaguars improve to 4-0.
"Thomas Jefferson has a good football team, and they were well prepared," Coach Barnett said. "TJ's coach Chuck Wimberly had his tight wing-T offense down to perfection. We met him with a 5-man, 6-man and sometimes with an 8-man front, but we could not shut him down. ...The Jaguars were the best team we have seen thus far this season, and I expect they will defend their state title of a year ago in grand fashion."
Briarwood Quarterback David Russell made his official return to the backfield last week, following three weeks of recuperation from a hip-pointer injury suffered in the season-opening game against Edmund Burke. In his comeback, Russell completed eight of 20 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns.
"David did a good job coming back in the quarterback role for us," Coach Barnett said. "He had a couple of interceptions during the game, and you're going to have them if you pass a lot. He'll get better as he gets tuned up."
In other statistics for the Buccaneers, Jacob Gay rushed eight times for 34 yards, and David Joesbury caught two passes for 83 yards and one touchdown.
A highlight for the Buccaneer special teams was the punting of Cane Gilmer. He kicked the ball four times for an average of 42.2 yards per kick, with three of the punts carrying for 45, 47 and 51 yards.
John Spivey was the leading tackler with nine solos and seven assists. He was followed by Jonathan Gay with nine solos and six assists, and Jacob Gay with eight solos and five assists.
The Jaguars received the opening kickoff and started their initial possession on their own 35 yard line. The Buccaneer defense held them on downs and forced TJA to punt the ball.
Following the punt, Briarwood began its first offensive possession on its 15 yard line, but after a defensive stand by the Jaguars, the Bucs were forced to punt. Gilmer came on and booted a 47-yard punt down to the TJ 28 yard line.
After another defensive stand, the Buccaneer offense began once again behind the signal-calling of Russell. The Bucs started this drive on the Thomas Jefferson 48 yard line. Immediately, Russell threw a beautiful strike to David Joesbury, who was in man-to-man coverage, and Joesbury raced down the field for a 48-yard touchdown. Chris Gerlach's extra point failed, thus the score became 6-0 with 4:39 remaining in the first quarter.
The Jaguars mounted their potential tying scoring drive late in the second quarter, following a Gilmer punt to the TJA 48 yard line. The drive, which consisted of all running plays, culminated when senior Rob Skinner kept the ball on a six-inch quarterback sneak for a touchdown on third down. The PAT was perfect, making the score 7-6 in Thomas Jefferson's favor with only 1:21 remaining in the first half.
With no timeouts, Briarwood started its next drive on its own 30 yard line with just over 1:10 left on the clock. After several nice runs from Russell and Jacob Gay, Russell hit Gerlach on a key pass for a first down. Following a crucial defensive interference call on the Jaguar 30 yard line, the Bucs found themselves now on the 15 yard line with a first down and time still running out in the second quarter.
To the Jaguars' surprise, Russell handed off to Gay up the middle for a 7 yard run. Then Russell quickly hit Davis Griffin in the corner of the endzone on an 8-yard touchdown pass with only 0:02 showing on the clock. The attempt for two points failed, thus Briarwood controlled a 12-7 lead at halftime.
The Bucs opened the third quarter with a drive that started on their own 35 yard line. Russell was intercepted on the 50 yard line, and the Jaguars ran the clock down on a massive scoring drive that culminated when Derrick Mathis scored on a sweep from the 8 yard line with 3:48 remaining in the third period. The two-point conversion made the score 15-12.
The Jaguars scored twice in the fourth quarter to definitely put the dot on the exclamation point. The first of these scores came at the 7:24 mark on a 3 yard power sweep from Britt Cooper. The two point conversion made the score 23-12.
Then, following a Briarwood punt, the Jaguars scored again with only 1:47 remaining in the game. Mathis again found paydirt on a 40-yard gallop for a score. The PAT failed, thus the final score became 29-12.
"We still have a pretty good ball team," Coach Barnett said. "We are a step or two away from having the ability to throw the ball really well and then come back with a very effective running game. Our offense is not a piece of pie. It is very complex."
The Buccaneers' schedule does not get any better this week, as a tough Bulloch Academy team comes calling this Friday night to Briarwood. Bulloch is currently 1-2 for the year.
"Coach Clint Morgan will definitely have his Bulloch Academy team ready this week," Coach Barnett said. He is a very persistent coach that has a superb vision of what a ball club should look like. Georgia Southern's Coach Brian VanGorder's son is quarterback for Bulloch, and he comes to the team with a lot of football background."
Briarwood 12, Thomas Jefferson 29
Player of the Game: Buccaneer Senior Quarterback David Russell completed eight of 20 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns. This was Russell's comeback debut after suffering a hip-pointer injury three weeks ago.
Play of the Game: The special teams play of punter Cane Gilmer was very effective all night. Gilmer punted the ball four times for an average of 42.2 yards per kick. Three of his punts sailed for 45, 47 and 51 yards.
Up next: The Buccaneers will host Bulloch Academy this Friday night. Bulloch, under the coaching guidance of Clint Morgan, owns a 1-2 overall record.