The game was as exciting as a game can be, and when all had been said and done, the Briarwood Academy Buccaneers prevailed victorious. They defeated the visiting Thomas Jefferson Academy Jaguars 19-14 to stay unbeaten in the GISA Region 1-A football standings at the Briarwood field last Friday night.
"I'm so proud of you I don't what else to say," said Briarwood Academy head coach John Osborne after the big win. "All I can say is that it took us all."
It marked the first time that coach Osborne has beaten Thomas Jefferson Academy since taking over the football program at Briarwood Academy three years ago. Prior to taking over as the head mentor at Briarwood Academy, coach Osborne served as an assistant coach for Thomas Jefferson Academy head coach Chuck Wimberly.
The win was the Buccaneers' fifth in a row since opening the season with three straight losses -- all to Class AA schools.
This Friday night, Briarwood Academy plays host to the David Emanuel Academy Eagles in another big region game. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
It was anybody's game when Briarwood Academy and Thomas Jefferson Academy tangled with each other a week ago.
"I guess you could say we just wanted it a little more than they did," said coach Osborne. The game wasn't actually decided until Briarwood Academy senior defensive back Ryan Nelson intercepted a Jaguar pass with just 46 seconds left in the game.
"I knew when he threw the ball that I was going to catch it," said a confident Nelson during an interview after the game. "And I knew the game was going to be over when I did. Teamwork is what won this game for us."
Nelson, who missed a few games earlier in the season due to a foot injury, leaped high into the air at the Briarwood Academy 39 to make the interception that sealed the win for him and his teammates.
"It's a great feeling," said junior running back Michael Kent, who had several nice long runs against the Jaguars. "I love being part of this team."
Dalton Banks, a freshman, played the best game of his career. He made several key tackles and also made several strong rushes on the Thomas Jefferson quarterback.
"It's very exciting to have beaten Thomas Jefferson," said Banks. "It feels awesome."
Senior quarterback Blake Sowell said, "It's amazing. It felt great to finally beat them in football. We're in the driver's seat. We control our own destiny now."
Steven Gunn also performed well again.
"This was a total team effort," said Gunn. "We just shut the door on them in the second half."
On the first play following the opening kickoff, Kent took a handoff from Sowell and raced down the Briarwood sideline on a 47 yard run. It gave the Buccaneers excellent field position at the Thomas Jefferson 23. The Bucs drove to the 12, but later fumbled. The ball was quickly scooped up by Michael Bridges who returned it 87 yards to pay dirt with 8:58 left in the first quarter.
The extra point kick failed, but the Jaguars held a 6-0 lead.
Briarwood Academy's Taylor Coxwell caught the ensuing kickoff at the Buccaneers' 14 and again Sowell and company set up, offensively.
Again on the first play from scrimmage, Kent exploded down the sideline.
He ran for 62 yards before being caught from behind. The big play got the Buccaneers to the Jaguars' 8. It took the Bucs four plays to finally score.
Ryan Pritchett scored on an 8 yard run with 6:40 left in the opening quarter.
Steven Gunn kicked the extra point, which gave Briarwood Academy a 7-6 lead. That's the way the score remained through halftime.
Asked what he told his players at the break, coach Osborne replied, "Don't go down."
And like has been the case during this long five-game winning streak, the Buccaneers listened and did what they were told.
In the second half with Kent and Pritchett being zeroed in on by Thomas Jefferson's defensive unit, Briarwood junior fullback Russell Burdette's services were called upon more.
Burdette had some nice strong runs up the middle.
With 1:28 to play in the third quarter, Thomas Jefferson scored on a 3 yard run by Bridges.
He also ran for the 2-point conversion which gave the Jaguars a 14-7 lead.
Briarwood Academy ended up having to score twice in the fourth quarter to pull out the victory.
The first touchdown came on a 12 yard run by Pritchett with 8:04 left in the game. Gunn's extra point was blocked. At that time, Thomas Jefferson clung to a one-point lead, 14-13.
After forcing the Jaguars to punt, the Buccaneers took possession of the ball at their own 35 with a little more than five minutes left to play.
Again on the first play from scrimmage, Kent broke loose on a big run -- all the way down to the Thomas Jefferson 30.
The Buccaneers then kept plucking away and getting closer and closer to the end zone. Finally with 3:23 left in the game, Burdette ran 12 yards up the middle for what would be the winning touchdown.