Briarwood's Buccaneers played Homecoming spoiler last Friday night, beating the Tiftarea Academy Panthers 36-20.
"It felt good to go into South Georgia and come away with a big win, especially in a homecoming atmosphere," Coach Jimmy Barnett said. "We were foreigners in hostile territory four hours away from our safe home. This was a great win for our program."
The No. 3-ranked Bucs traveled four hours to the Panther Pit in Chula, Ga. The 16-point victory by the Bucs, which increased their season record to 4-1-1, was the third win in a row for the Buccaneers.
"Week after week this season, we have faced very tough teams," Coach Barnett said. "This was just another game with a tremendous team. I had warned our kids that they would probably be flat in the beginning after coming off big wins in the past few weeks. We were flat in the early going, but we then stepped up the pressure."
Against Tiftarea, Briarwood scored 17 points in a very short time in the first half to carry a 10-point lead at halftime, and scored 29 unanswered points before Tiftarea was able to get back into the end zone.
Buccaneer senior quarterback David Russell had another strong night, connecting on seven of 10 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns. Dave Joesbury finished the game with three catches for 62 yards and one score, and Joseph Batrous caught two passes for 66 yards and one touchdown. Jacob Gay was the leading rusher for the Buccaneers with 79 yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns.
But the Bucs had a little trouble getting started. They trailed 7-0 at the end of the first quarter, but that didn't last long. On the first play of the second quarter, Gay scored the team's first touchdown from the 2 yard line, which was followed by Chris Gerlach's extra point.
And the Bucs were just getting started. On their next possession, Russell connected on a 54-yard bomb to Batrous for a touchdown, and Briarwood held a 14-7 lead with less than eight minutes left before halftime.
Briarwood - fueled by a combination of strong passing and clock management - would score once more before halftime. A 29-yard pass on fourth down from Russell to Joesbury set up a 26 yard field goal from Gerlach as time expired to give the Bucs a 17-7 locker room lead.
As the second half started, Briarwood didn't let up, as Chase Wilson caused a fumble on Tiftarea's second play of the half. Davis Griffin picked up the loose football and dashed 54 yards for a touchdown.
Briarwood's offense would score again in the third, led by a 54-yard scamper by Gay. A play later, he dove in to the end zone from the 1 yard line.
The Buccaneers' final score of the night came with just 1:30 left in the fourth quarter to cap off a long, late drive. An eight-yard touchdown pass from Russell to Joesbury made the score 35-14. Gerlach's PAT increased the margin to 36-14.
"The most amazing thing about our team this year is the way they use and run down the clock," Coach Barnett said. "That drive to end the first half was a great example of this. With no timeouts left, we hit passes and the receivers would step out of bounds to stop the clock."
Injuries are starting to plague the Buccaneers a little. Batrous suffered a severe sprain to his leg in the Tiftarea game, and will be out a couple of weeks. Offensive tackle Jonathan Gay has a possible torn ACL, and will be out for a prolonged time.
"We have several unselfish players on this team, and Kyle Ewest is one," Coach Barnett said. "With Jonathan being out due to his injury, Kyle came to me and volunteered to give up his tight end position so he could play tackle in Jonathan's absence. He already knew all the plays, so the transition would be smooth. We moved Davis Griffin to tight end, and everything ran according to plan. Kyle did not have to give up his position, but that's the kind of player he is."
The Buccaneers will host Westminster Christian of Watkinsville this Friday night in the first region game for Briarwood.
"Westminster owns a 2-4 record, and they run a wing-T offense with a lot of play action pass plays," Coach Barnett said.
Briarwood 36, Tiftarea 20
Star of the Game: Buccaneer senior Joseph Batrous scored Briarwood's go-ahead touchdown with less than eight minutes to play in the first half on a 54 yard pass from quarterback David Russell.
Play of the Game: Briarwood senior placekicker Chris Gerlach kicked a 26 yard field goal with just 0.9 seconds remaining in the first half to give Briarwood a 17-7 lead at the halftime intermission. This play, which culminated a 62 yard scoring drive, was the turning point of the game.
Up next: The Buccaneers will host Westminster Christian this Friday night in a key region game. Westminster owns a 2-4 overall record.