The Briarwood Buccaneer's injury-riddled season ended last Friday in Shellman with a 27-14 loss to Randolph Southern Academy in the first round of the GISA Class A playoffs.
The Bucs and Patriots were seemingly well-matched teams, very much alike in size and speed as well as running a similar offense. The first half was a battle, ending in a 7-7 tie, but the Patriots came back in the second half to score three quick touchdowns to seal the victory.
Injuries to key Buc players heavily impacted the final games of the season as well as Friday's playoff game with the Patriots. Senior Cane Gilmer, a leading rusher and defender for the Bucs, broke his arm in the contest with John Hancock and, although he played, was unable to run the ball against the Patriots. Junior Matthew McElveen, the Bucs' leading ground gainer, injured a knee and missed the final regular season game. He, too, saw very limited time playing time against the Patriots. Senior defensive standout and lead blocker Ben Raburn was injured in practice, He missed the final two regular season games and was not at full strength for the Patriots.
"It was a hard fought game. I couldn't ask for more effort than I got from our players, especially our seniors, who were our strength all season," Coach John Osborne said.
In addition to Gilmer and Raburn, quarterback Chase Walker, fullback Jonathan Gay, running back Nick Dawson and tackle Mathew Graziano played their final game for the Bucs.
"We're going to really miss them," Osborne said of the seniors, most of whom have been mainstays in the Bucs' lineup for three seasons.
Against the Patriots, Briarwood got behind early. After forcing the Bucs to punt on their opening drive, the Patriots needed just two plays - and the extra point kick - to cover 62 yards and take the early lead 7-0 lead.
Briarwood answered quickly, marching the length of the field on their ensuing drive to knot the score at 7-7. Gay scored the touchdown on a first and goal from the two-yard line.
The Bucs dominated the second quarter, but missed their chance to take the lead when, on a fourth and goal, they were stopped on the one-inch line.
But Briarwood couldn't find the groove in the final half as the Patriots packed on three touchdowns in less than six minutes in the third quarter.
Briarwood's final touchdown came in the fourth quarter on a short run by Dawson.
The Bucs ended the 2008 season with a 6-5 record.