After totally dominating the Gatewood Gators 33-14 in a GISA Region 1AA contest last Friday night in Eatonton, the Briarwood Buccaneers have turned their attention not only to a big Homecoming game, but also a big Region 1AA contest this Friday night as the Bucs play host to Edmund Burke Academy of Waynesboro.
"If EBA beats us, it will make their season," Coach Jimmy Barnett said. "They're basing the success of their season on beating us. Nothing would please them more.
"You can throw the record out," he continued. "They've got a whole lot better team than their record indicates. I've watched them on film, and they're going to be hard to beat. They have a 230-lb. running back (linebacker on defense) who is one of the best football players I've seen this year."The Bucs go into the game 2-0 in region play with wins over Curtis Baptist and Gatewood while EBA is 1-1 in region play with a win over Gatewood and a two-point loss to Brentwood School. The Bucs will face Brentwood in their final region game of the season.
EBA only beat Gatewood by two points while the Bucs had possibly their best game of the season in the lopsided 33-14 win over the Gators.
"Last Friday night everything was going our way," Coach Barnett said. "I just hope it continues."
The Bucs amassed 383 yards total offense against the Gators, gaining 152 yards rushing and a phenomenal 231 yards passing.
"That's a good night," Coach Barnett said. "I'm especially proud of the passing performance. I know 231 yards is the most I've every thrown for as a coach. (Quarterback David) Russell was just hot. He was finding the receivers and putting the ball in their hands."
"Our offense was clicking," he continued. "Everything we (Buc quarterbacks) were putting up, they (Buc receivers) were catching. It wasn't just a few kids; it was everybody. Four players caught passes. They were just making great plays."
Coach Barnett was especially pleased with the team play of the Bucs and attributes the win to the Bucs play as a team rather than depending on any one outstanding player.
"That's what (team play) did it for us Friday night (against Gatewood)," he said.
The Bucs also proved that they have depth Friday night when senior tackle Will Quinn left the game early with an injury. Freshman Matthew Graziano, who normally plays center, was sent into the game. Senior center Jason Dunham shifted to tackle, and Graziano took over at center for the remainder of the game.
"You're talking about a massive responsibility to be a center in a game like this," Coach Barnett said. "He went in and did a tremendous job."
Graziano also played linebacker on defense and received Defensive Player of the Week honors from Coach Barnett for his performance in the game.
The Bucs took command early. Junior Kyle Ewest caused and recovered a fumble on the Gators' 25-yard line on the opening kickoff. On the first play from scrimmage, senior fullback Tyler Wester went up the middle for 10 yards to the Gator 15. On the second play from scrimmage, Russell scored on a 15-yard QB sneak up the middle. Chris Gerlach kicked the extra point, and the Bucs led 7-0 only two plays into the game.
Gatewood answered immediately, taking the kickoff and driving 64 yards for a TD, but it was to be the final time the Gators saw an end zone other than their own until late in the fourth quarter. And, the Gators never led, missing the two-point conversion attempt and leaving the Bucs with a 7-6 lead.
The teams struggled through the remainder of the first quarter. After that, it was all Briarwood as the Bucs' passing game exploded.
Early in the second quarter, Russell hit sophomore Dave Joesbury on a 64-yard TD pass. The kick failed for a 13-6 lead. The Bucs kicked off and held, only to run down the punt on their own 10-yard line. The Bucs covered the 90 yards in record time with 14 and eight-yard runs by junior Joseph Batrous, a 37-yard catch by Joesbury, and a 32-yard TD pass from Russell to Batrous for the score.
"We had Kyle, Dave and Joseph all in their secondary running three different routes on crossing pattern. They were just putting on a show," Coach Barnett said. "Gatewood couldn't handle that combination."
The Bucs' two point PAT attempt failed, and the score remained at 19-6.
An interception by sophomore Hughlon Mays stopped the Gators' ensuing drive on the Bucs' 30-yard line. With little time left on the clock and all of the Bucs' time-outs used when Quinn was injured, Russell took to the air and hit Ewest for 37 yards and then again for 22 yards. The Bucs were on the Gators' nine when Russell was injured. With only seconds left on the clock, Coach Barnett sent in freshman Chase Walker who hit Joesbury for the score. Batrous scored a two-point conversion on a sweep for a 27-6 halftime lead for the Bucs.
For that one pass play, Walker earned Offensive Player of the Week honors from Coach Barnett.
"You've got a freshman sitting on the sideline cold; he hadn't taken a snap. With only a 15 seconds left on the clock and a critical play, I turned around and said, é─˛Throw me a TD,' and he did. He was real cool in what he was doing," Coach Barnett said. "That told them we came to play.
"That might have slammed the door on them," Coach Barnett said of the TD, which he feels put the game out of reach of the Gators mentally, if not also physically.
The Bucs scored their final TD early in the second on a 63-yard TD drive. Key plays on the drive were a 21-yard run by Gerlach and a 13-yard pass from Russell to Batrous. Wester went up the middle for the 25-yard score. The kick failed, leaving the Bucs with 33 points to the Gators' six.
The Bucs substituted freely, gaining game experience for everyone while playing the Gators even. The Gators scored their final TD late in the fourth and added the kick to up their score to 13 points.
Wester gained 62 yards on five carries for the Bucs.
Batrous rushed for 40 yards and gained 59 yards receiving.
Joesbury was four-for-four for 113 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
"That boy can catch the football. He's got talent," Coach Barnett said.
Star of the game: Chase Walker was the Offensive Player of the Game and Matthew Graziano was the Defensive Player of the Game.
Play of the game: Chase Walker, coming in for injured starting Quarterback David Russell, threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to Dave Joesbury on his first snap.
Up Next: Briarwood faces Edmund Burke for Homecoming Friday night.