The Briarwood Academy Buccaneers dispatched John Hancock Academy 18-6 in the rain last Friday night and are preparing for "one of the great, old rivalries" in GISA Region 1AA when they travel to Eatonton this Friday to face Gatewood School.
"They're a sound, well-coached team," Coach Jimmy Barnett said of Gatewood. "They're a young team, about like we are, and they've got some good players.
Briarwood's Tyler Wester takes the handoff from Quarterback David Russell on his way into the endzone.
"I'm excited," Coach Barnett continued, adding that the home field advantage is certainly a plus for Gatewood. "Win, lose or draw, I love to play great, old rivalries."
Gatewood, which runs the "hard to stop" wing-T offense, is coming off a difficult region loss to Edmund Burke Academy last Friday night, according to Coach Barnett.
"Gatewood had them beat," Coach Barnett said of EBA. "Then, with fourth and seven, EBA pulled a trick play, and it worked. They scored with two seconds left on the clock and beat them 16-14."
Gatewood is 1-1 in Region 1AA play with the loss to EBA and a win over Curtis Baptist, while the Bucs are 1-0 in region play with a win over Curtis Baptist.
Playing in a steady drizzle on an already soggy field, the Bucs adapted their game to the conditions and gained 236 yards, mostly straight up the middle, for the win over always aggressive John Hancock.
"It was a pretty simple game," Coach Barnett said. "Most everything we did was straight ahead. As slick as it was, we didn't try the corners."
The conditions also resulted in John Hancock's coach holding out the Rebels' number one running back, who injured an ankle earlier in the season, for fear of the player re-injuring his ankle before the Rebels' region games.
"They're going to play you," Barnett said of John Hancock. "They hit us as well as anyone has."
The Bucs started the game throwing.
Briarwood's David Russell (7), Jacob Gay (43) and Kyle Ewest stop a John Hancock runner in the second quarter of last week's game.
"We had three dry footballs," Coach Barnett said. "We got the ball early and threw it before it weighed as much as a cannonball."
In fact, the Bucs scored their first TD on a 17-yard pass play from quarterback David Russell to Dave Joesbury.
After kicking off to Hancock and holding, the Bucs drove 63 yards on their first series of downs, scoring on a "spectacular catch" by Joesbury.
The Bucs tried a kick for the PAT, but it failed.
In the second quarter, the Bucs mounted a 78-yard drive for their second score. Fullback Tyler Wester went straight up the middle for 63 of the yards and then scored from the two on a dive up the middle.
The Bucs tried a run for the PAT, but failed to get over the goal.
The Bucs scored their final TD of the half and the game shortly before the half ended.
The Bucs took the ball on their own 47 and drove steadily downfield for their final score. Senior Dustin Pilgrim's run of 16 yards was the longest of the drive, which was capped by a 7-yard plunge up the middle by Wester.
Joseph Batrous drags a John Hancock defender during Friday night's 18-6 victory.
The Bucs tried another kick for a PAT, but "the ball was so heavy; it must have weighed 900 lbs. by this time," Coach Barnett said.
With 38 seconds left on the clock, the Rebels scored their only TD of the game on a fullback dive set up by a 50-yard run by their quarterback. The PAT failed.
"The key to the game was our line whipped their line, and I think that was the total difference in the ball game," Coach Barnett said. "We whipped'em up front."
Although all of the Bucs' offensive linemen - Chase Wilson, Will Quinn, Jason Dunham, and Kyle Ewest - did a great job, it was sophomore tackle Andrew Johnson who got the nod as Offensive Player of the Week.
"Those runs the backs were making; he was making some of the key blocks. He had a good night blocking, probably the best night of his career," Coach Barnett said.
Defensively, sophomore cornerback Hughlon Mays received Player of the Week honors.
"He plays smart ball, especially to be only a sophomore," Coach Barnett said. "Their quarterback got loose, and I thought he was gone, but Hughlon made a tremendous sprint and got to him."
Twelve players ran the ball for the Bucs, who rolled up 236 yards rushing.
Wester led the Bucs on the ground, gaining 120 yards on 11 carries and scoring two touchdowns.
Briarwood 18, John Hancock 6
Star of the game: Andrew Johnson was the Offensive Player of the Game and Hughlon Mays was the Defensive Player of the Game.
Play of the game: Briarwood kicked off the scoring in the game with a "spectacular" 17-yard pass play from David Russell to Dave Joesbury.
Up Next: Briarwood travels to Eatonton to play Gatewood on Friday night.