The Briarwood Buccaneers lost to the Tiftarea Panthers 7-6 last Friday night after hanging on to the lead until late in the fourth quarter, but as they prepare to play the first region game of the season this week, the Bucs may have marked a turning point in a tumultuous season.
"There are no good losses, but if there was one, that was the best possible loss we could have going into region play," said Coach Josh Morey.
Briarwood is 1-5 for the season but seem to be getting their feet placed solidly on the ground. Former assistant coaches Morey and Bo Fleming have stepped up to lead the team and are having a positive impact on the players.
"We can tell that everything we're doing in practice has taken hold," Coach Morey said. "We're excited to get going in region play and show what we can do."
Briarwood struck first against Tiftarea, with an 11-yard run up the middle by junior Nick Dawson.
Both teams fought hard defensive battles in the second and third quarters, neither giving in, leaving the final quarter for a real fight. Tiftarea took a Buc punt on their own 48-yard line. Eight plays later, the Panthers scored and then kicked the extra point to take a 7-6 lead with 3:41 left in the game.
With the extra point made by Tiftarea, Briarwood had to come out swinging with one last effort.
The Bucs gained 26 yards on a pass from junior quarterback Chase Walker to senior receiver Dave Joesbury. The Bucs turned the ball back over to the Panthers when they failed to convert on a fourth and 15 with 2:07 left on the clock. Tiftarea ran the clock out for the win.
"They played their hearts out," Coach Fleming said of the team's effort against Tiftarea. "It was by far our best game of the year. It was a heartbreaking loss, but it was something we can build on. We're getting better each and every day, and we hope to put it all together this Friday night."
Briarwood enters the region competition this weekend in Athens against Westminster Christian.
Game time is 7:30 p.m. and can be heard live via streaming audio from WTWA-AM on The McDuffie Mirror's website, www.mcduffiemirror.com.
The Buccaneers next home game is Oct. 26th when they celebrate homecoming against Gatewood.
Briarwood 6 Tiftarea 7
Star of the game: Sophomore Matthew McElveen led the Bucs offensively, gaining 108 yards on 18 carries
Play of the game: Tiftarea's fourth quarter touchdown and point after
Up next: Briarwood travels to Athens to take on Westminster Christian