The Briarwood Buccaneers got within six yards of the goal line twice and failed to score in their season ending 41-7 loss to Pinewood Christian Academy in the second round of the GISA AA state playoffs last Friday in Bellville.
"We had a good year. It was a successful season," Coach Jimmy Barnett of the 2005 Bucs, who finished the year with a 7-5 overall record. "At no time this season, that I can remember, did they depend on any one person. They put their attitudes aside, put themselves aside, and developed a good team and some good friendships. I think they learned an important life lesson there."
Six seniors - Tyler Wester, Blake Stitcher, Will Quinn, Jason Dunham, Dustin Pilgrim and Micah Black - played their final game for the Bucs.
"This group of seniors did a great job. You couldn't have asked for any more from them," Coach Barnett said. "When I came here three years ago, the only one playing football was Tyler Wester. The other five lacked experience, but they put their noses to the grindstone and did a super job. We wouldn't have gotten where we were if it wasn't for them.
"The only thing I can think of to say to all of them is, 'thank you,' for listening to me and believing in me and what we had to do."
Coach Barnett also had kind words for the youngest Bucs "who worked hard and didn't get a lot of playing time."
"They paid their dues," Coach Barnett said. "They'd go out every day, suit up, practice, get hit, go through everything everyone else did for somewhat limited rewards. They even had to run the other team's plays against our starters, and they knew they weren't going to get out there much.
"Ethan DeMore, Ben Raburn, Cane Gilmer, Mason Black, Reed Wheeler, Corey Davidson and Carl Chapman ... their future is ahead of them."
The Bucs played a good ball game against "an excellent, excellent football team," according to Coach Barnett.
"We might have played the state champion," Coach Barnett said. "I don't think I saw a better defense all year. They were so quick, so fast. You could show them one thing, and they recovered quickly and went to the ball. They had 11 (players on the field,) but it looked like 15.
"We gave'em what we had," he continued. "We had to gamble some once we got behind, and that's why the score is a little more one-sided than it should be."
The Bucs jumped to an early lead over Pinewood when they blocked the Pinewood fourth-down punt. The Bucs recovered the ball on Pinewood's 17-yard line. Junior Joseph Batrous moved the ball to the eight on runs of five and four yards before Wester bulled up the middle for eight yards and the game's first TD. Junior Chris Gerlach kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead over a shocked Pinewood Christian team.
Pinewood was down momentarily, but definitely not out as they took the kickoff on their 35-yard line and combined a passing and running attack, culminating with a 20-yard TD pass. Pinewood kicked the extra point to tie the game up at 7-7.
Pinewood kicked off and held the Bucs. Taking the punt on their 40-yard line, Pinewood scored on a long pass to take the lead 13-7. The PAT failed, leaving Pinewood up 13-7 as the first quarter ended.
Pinewood's next score came in the second when the team orchestrated a 77-yard running drive "right down our throat," Coach Barnett said.
"They had the best linemen we've played all year," he said. "They were quick, and they were strong. Boy, they were strong, and, they were big. They had a 6'4", 250-lb. lineman that we could hardly move."
After the TD, Pinewood went for and made a two point PAT for a 21-7 lead.
Pinewood got the ball back at on the Bucs' 25-yard line and scored one more time shortly before the half. Reaching down to catch a low snap, the officials called punter Blake Stitcher down, giving Pinewood the ball deep in Buc territory. It took Pinewood only four runs to score their fourth TD and add a one-point PAT for a 28-7 halftime lead.
Despite being down by 21 points, the Bucs came back strong after the half. Batrous, who had "a tremendous night" returning, ran the kickoff to the Bucs' 48-yard line. With key runs by Wester and junior Jacob Gay, the Bucs put together their best drive of the night, only to be held on the one foot line after a first down and three.
"That was the backbreaker of the night," Coach Barnett said of the Bucs' failure to score on the second half opening drive with a first and three to the goal.
"They held us; we gave them the ball, and here they go," Coach Barnett said. "Run, run, run, and then an 81-yard TD pass. He caught it on a slant end (on the Bucs' 19) and outran us all. We couldn't catch him. He was too fast."
The Bucs blocked the PAT kick.
Down 34-7, the Bucs' Batrous took the ensuing kickoff just as the fourth quarter began. Catching the kickoff on the 10-yard line, Batrous had a 16-yard return to the 26-yard line. The Bucs drove down to Pinewood's six-yard line, only to be stopped from scoring.
"We could not punch it in," Coach Barnett said.
Pinewood took over on the Bucs' 6 yard line, and ran a couple of plays before scoring their final TD on a 65 yard run for a 41-7 final score.
Wester was the Bucs' leading rusher for the night, gaining 60 yards on nine carries. Batrous contributed 40 yards on six carries plus had a "tremendous" night returning punts for an additional 114 yards for the Bucs.
Quarterback David Russell was 4-of-12 passing for 44 yards. Sophomore receiver Dave Joesbury caught two of the passes for 34 yards.
"They were circus catches," Coach Barnett said. "They had double coverage on him. They were all over him, and he came up and caught them anyway."
Overall, the Bucs had eight first downs to Pinewood's 13. The Bucs rushed 29 times for 136 yards while Pinewood rushed 41 times for 276 yards. The Bucs caught four passes for 44 yards while Pinewood caught four passes for 121 yards.