The Briarwood Buccaneers made short work of Monroe Academy Friday night at Briarwood with a 27-6 win in the first round of the GISA AA state playoffs. However, this Friday night's second round contest probably won't prove to be quite as easy as the Bucs travel deep into south Georgia to face one of AA's strongest teams, Pinewood Christian Academy in Bellville.
"They have a tremendous defense," Coach Jimmy Barnett said of Pinewood. "They are quick, aggressive, and they force the issue. Offensively, they have a tremendous tailback who heads up an excellent running game.
Briarwood's Tyler Wester - who had his best game of the season on the ground against Monroe - pushes off two defenders.
"The talk in the state is Pinewood has one of the best ball teams," he continued, "and, after watching their films, it's easy to see why they're so highly rated.
"We're just glad to be in it," he said. "To win the championship, you have to play the best, and we will be playing the best Friday night."
The Bucs had little trouble with Monroe last week, and much of the credit for the win goes to the defensive line.
"They just couldn't run the football, and it wasn't all their fault," he said. "Our front line (Chase Wilson, Kyle Ewest, Will Quinn, Jonathan Gay and Jason Dunham) completely shut them down inside. They only had 10 yards rushing on 21 attempts."
Forced to throw the football, Monroe had more success, but not much. Monroe gained 102 yards throwing, but never mounted a scoring threat against the Bucs.
The Bucs, however, had one of their best offensive games of the season. Senior Tyler Wester had his best showing of the year, gaining 104 yards on 15 carries. In all, nine Bucs carried the ball, gaining a total of 237 yards rushing on 50 carries. Junior Joseph Batrous gained 42 yards on seven carries, while junior Chris Gerlach gained 42 yards on 10 carries.
"For the first time in a long, long time, we ran the football like I haven't seen us do this season," Coach Barnett said.
Briarwood's Joseph Batrous slams ahead for a few yards.
The Bucs also had a successful night passing. Junior quarterback David Russell completed four of eight passes attempted for 48 yards. Freshman quarterback Chase Walker came into the game late and connected on the only pass he threw, a 33-yarder to Dave Joesbury.
"Chase is outstanding," Coach Barnett said. "He does a tremendous job coming off the bench, especially as a freshman.
On their second possession of the game, the Bucs took a punt on their own 30-yard line and then proceeded to grind out 70 yards for their first TD. Batrous scored from the ten. Wester's 12-yard run was the longest run of the drive. Gerlach kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
The Bucs kicked off and held, taking a punt on their own 47-yard line. A 28-yard pass from Russell to Ewest was the key play on the drive, which was capped by a four yard TD run by Russell. Gerlach kicked another extra point for a 14-0 lead
Early in the third, Monroe started driving, but the drive was cut short by a pass interception on Monroe's 30-yard line by sophomore Hughlon Mays. Mays danced down the sideline for the score. The PAT attempt failed, and the Bucs led 20-0.
The Bucs kicked off and held again. Taking the punt on their own 25-yard line, the Bucs proceeded to drive 75 yards downfield on the ground. Wester's 20-yard run in the drive helped set up his own one-yard TD plunge. Gerlach kicked the extra point on the Bucs' final score for a 27-0 lead.
After a heated exchange at midfield in the fourth, Monroe scored their only TD and the final TD of the game on a 61-yard touchdown pass. The PAT pass failed, and the game ended with the Bucs ahead 27-6.
Senior Tyler Wester was named the Offensive Player of the Week for his outstanding running game. Wester's 104 yards on offense was his season high.
Sophomore Hughlon Mays was named the Defensive Player of the Week for his outstanding play at cornerback for the Bucs. Mays disrupted a third quarter drive by Monroe with a 30-yard TD interception.
"I smile when I think he's only a sophomore," Coach Barnett said.
Briarwood 27, Monroe 6
Star of the game: Tyler Wester was named Offensive Player of the Game and Houghlon Mays was named the Defensive Player of the Game.
Play of the game: The story of the game for the Bucs was defense. The Bucs held Monore to just 10 yards on the ground.
Up Next: Briarwood travels to south Georgia to play Pinewood Christian Friday night. Game time is 7:30 p.m.