MACON, Ga. - Junior halfback Matthew McElveen had his best game ever, scoring several touchdowns and setting a personal best in rushing yardage, as the Briarwood Academy Buccaneers shellacked the Covenant Academy Rams 53-23 last Saturday night.
The win was the Bucs' third straight of the season. They hope to keep their winning ways going this Friday night when they hit the road to Hancock County to play John Hancock Academy's Rebels in Sparta.
"Excellent job tonight," exclaimed a happy first year Briarwood Head Coach John Osborne during a talk with his players at the end of the game last weekend. "That's how it's done. Offensively, we played almost as perfect as it gets. And defensively, we got after them."
He believes his team has discovered themselves - thus the reason for why they have been playing so well of late.
"Our team played as a team and when you play as a team and not as individuals, good things tend to happen," said Coach Osborne. "I'm proud of our players. They have really worked hard to achieve the success they've enjoyed the last three games."
The key to the Bucs' latest victory was big plays, as well as blocking, he pointed out, just like was the case against Bethesda two weeks ago.
"Execution and playing assignment football is what led to us winning again," said Coach Osborne.
Briarwood, now 3-2 overall and 2-0 in GISA Region 1-A play, have received a good portion of their success the last three games due to their ability to run the football. McElveen has been at the forefront with teammates Cane Gilmer, Nick Dawson and Chase Walker playing active cast roles, too.
During the lopsided win over Covenant Academy at Ed Defore Sports Complex in Macon, McElveen rushed for 158 yards on eight carries and scored three touchdowns. He also caught two passes for 24 yards from senior quarterback Chase Walker.
He'd like nothing better than to see the Bucs capture the region championship this season.
"We really want to win the region championship," said McElveen after the game, noting that the Bucs came out ready to play Covenant. "We were pretty pumped up."
In addition to his outstanding play, offensively, McElveen also recorded two solo tackles and one assist on the defensive side.
McElveen isn't alone in thinking that the Bucs have shown big improvement as a team since their first two games of the season.
"I think we're a really good team," said sophomore wide receiver Blake Sowell, who was on the receiving end of a 35-yard touchdown pass from Walker in the game against Covenant. "It's going to be rough here on out for us. We just have to keep working hard."
Mathew Graziano, a senior nose guard and right tackle, attributed the latest win to team effort.
"It wasn't about any individual," said Graziano. "It was a total team effort. We played well as a team and we beat them."
Defensively, the Bucs were led by sophomore defensive back Ryan Nelson, who recorded 11 solo tackles and one assist.
Briarwood wasted no time establishing a lead, as they struck for 35 points during the first half. And in the second half, they seemingly picked off where they left off.
"We played one like four," said Coach Osborne, referring to his team's efforts in all four quarters.
The Bucs got on the scoreboard in the first quarter on an 18-yard touchdown run by Gilmer, who also booted the extra point. McElveen later blocked an attempted field goal by Covenant's Reece Freel. He scooped the ball up and raced downfield before being tackled from behind at the Covenant 4. Walker later scored on a one-yard run. Gilmer's extra point made it a 14-0 game with 6:32 remaining in the first.
Nick Dawson later scored on a 22-yard run after McElveen set up the score on a 35-yard jaunt. Gilmer's kick made it a 21-0 game.
In the second quarter, the Bucs increased their lead to 29-0 with a 38-yard run by Gilmer, who rushed for 115 yards on 10 carries. Dawson, meanwhile, was the second leading ground gainer for the Bucs with 127 yards on nine carries.
Briarwood's Tyler Edwards recovered a fumble with 8:44 to play in the second that led to another touchdown. McElveen scored on a 28-yard play. At halftime, Briarwood led 35-0. The score increased to 41-0 in the third, as McElveen scored on a 16-yard run.
Covenant finally got into the end zone on a 64-yard touchdown run by Stephen Howard. Freel, meanwhile, made it a 41-8 game when he caught a two-point conversion pass from quarterback Andretti Loyd.
Walker later hooked up with Sowell for another Briarwood touchdown. McElveen scored again on a 51-yard run. Covenant scored twice more to finish out the scoring in the game.