After opening the 2009 prep football season with a pair of losses, the Briarwood Academy Buccaneers marched to their first victory, defeating the Curtis Baptist Crusaders 42-20 at Lucy Laney Stadium in Augusta last Friday night.
The Bucs erupted for six touchdowns -- five of them coming in the second half.
"It was great to get our first win," remarked a jubilant Briarwood Academy head coach John Osborne. "Winning makes everything easier. It will make our practices better. And the belief factor will get stronger, too. They can now better believe in themselves, coaches and the system we're trying to teach them. We won't have to sell it to them as much as we did now that they see they can win."
Briarwood will have an open date this Friday night before beginning region play against Bethesda Day School in Savannah in two weeks.
The first half of the game against Curtis Baptist was a struggle, with both teams limited to only one score. "Personally, I thought we were a better team than we played in the first half," coach Osborne said.
The Buccaneers scored their first touchdown of the game with 9:26 to play in the first quarter. It came on a 60-yard run by senior running back Matthew McElveen. Trey Stadler kicked the extra point that put the Bucs on top 7-0.
Curtis Baptist was held scoreless until they managed to get into the end zone with just 4.5 seconds left in the first half to tie the game at 7-7.
The second half saw the Buccaneers dominate -- both offensively and defensively.
"I was really proud of the way we played in the second half," coach Osborne said.
In the first half, he explained, the Bucs played a man zone, defensively.
"It seemed like we were out of sync with that type of defense," coach Osborne pointed out. "At halftime, we, as coaches talked about it and decided to go to a 5-2 defense in the second half. We thought at the time that if they were going to beat us then they were going to do it against what we do best."
Coach Osborne said his players seemed as though they were thinking a lot about what they needed to do in the first half, instead of simply reacting.
"Making that adjustment really made a difference in the second half," coach Osborne said. "In the second half, we just played and reacted. They were a lot more comfortable with the 5-2 defense."
In the third quarter, Briarwood scored three unanswered touchdowns to blow the game wide open.
Stadler scored on a 2-yard run with 5:57 left. He also added the extra point, which gave the Bucs a 14-7 lead. Five minutes and 10 seconds later, Briarwood hit pay dirt again when quarterback Blake Sowell ran for a 5-yard touchdown. Stadler's extra point increased the Bucs' lead to 21-7.
Briarwood's fourth touchdown of the game came on 2-yard run by Sowell with 10:47 left in the game. Stadler's PAT made it a 28-7 game. Curtis Baptist came back and scored another to make it a 28-14 game before the Bucs struck again.
Briarwood's fifth TD came by way of a passing play. Senior wide receiver Carson Wiley caught a 30-yard pass from Sowell and rambled into the end zone for the score. That made it a 35-14 game.
The Crusaders scored again before the Bucs tallied their last TD. It came on a 65-yard pass from Sowell to Dalton Reese.
The Bucs managed to stay somewhat injury-free with the exception of Adam Hardy, a senior, who plays offensive right guard and defensive tackle.
Hardy, who made two solo tackles and had two assists against Curtis Baptist, injured his right shoulder and left the game in the third quarter.
Defensively, Eric Johnson and Dalton Reese each had a big night. Both intercepted a pass. Johnson also made three solo tackles, while Reese made two tackles and had one assist.
Briarwood's leading tackler turned out to be Matthew McElveen, who made seven tackles and two assists. Carson Wiley made six tackles and one assist.
Offensively, Sowell performed well, completing 5-of-6 passes for a total of 137 yards, including scoring two touchdowns. McElveen rushed 11 times for 130 yards; Trey Stadler carried the ball 7 times for 69 yards, while Carson Wiley caught two passes for 45 yards. Dalton Reese made a catch for 65 yards that went for the Bucs' last TD.