(Franklin, GA) — The Braves found themselves in a Hornet’s nest early and often at Staples Stadium Friday night where they fell to a Class AA No. 3 ranked Hapeville Hornet squad by a final score of 61-7.
After received the opening kickoff, the Hornets scored on just the second play from scrimmage and things got worse quickly for the Braves when a scoop and score put the visiting team up 13-0 less than two minutes into the first quarter.
After a good stand by the Brave defense, the lone highlight of the night for the Braves in the meeting of the last two state champs was an 81-yard touchdown scamper by junior Alex Boyd on the ensuing drive that closed the gap to 13-7.
The Hornets would respond quickly, however with a kick-off return for another score to extend the lead again. They would never look back.
Ball possession would the story of the night as the Braves would eventually turn it over six times — a stat that would be far too difficult to overcome.
Surprisingly, despite the lofty margin of defeat, the Hornets only out-gained the Braves in total yardage 266-232.
Boyd led the way for the Braves with 101 yards rushing on nine carries and five other Braves had carries for positive yardage including senior Jai Wright who had 32 yards on eight carries and fellow senior Kesean Johnson who had seven touches for 30 yards.
Ashton Bonner had a great night on special teams for the Braves with 2-3 blocked PAT attempts.
The rebuilding Braves struggled all night versus a loaded Hornet roster featuring around a dozen division one prospects and multiple four-star athletes.
Head coach Tim Barron says that no matter how over-matched, his squad can’t afford to have so many mistakes if they hope to compete this season.
“It was just ugly. There ain’t no other way to say it. You can’t play a team as talented as that and play like we did with turnovers and penalties. You just can’t do it. We gave up big plays, and then you turn it over so many times. You just can’t do that,” said Barron after the game. “We gave up big play after big play. Hapeville is a very, very good football team. They’re extremely explosive, and if you make a mistake, they make you pay for it.”
Coach Barron does believe his team can improve as they move closer to the Region 5-AA schedule soon.
“We’ve got a long way to go, but I still believe if we stay together and the kids don’t pay attention to the outside noise — if they just focus on every day getting a little bit better — then by midseason we can be a good football team. We’re just not a good football team right now.”
The Braves will face another tall order this week as they host last year’s State Championship opponent Rockmart for the first time in Franklin.
The Yellow Jackets are currently ranked No. 1 in Class AA and will be looking for revenge after the Braves knocked them off by a score of 27-6 at Mercedes Benz in December to claim Heard County’s first state football championship.
The championship win itself was revenge for the Braves after falling 33-0 at Rockmart during the regular season last year. Friday’s game kicks off at 7:30 PM at Staples Stadium.