(Franklin, GA) — What appeared to be a hard-fought Senior Night win for the Heard County Braves at Staples Stadium Friday night quickly turned into an upset loss to the rival Bremen Blue Devils.
Junior Alex Boyd scored on a 21-yard touchdown scamper to give the Braves a 16-7 lead with just 3:35 to go in the game before the Blue Devils would answer with two scores in the closing minutes of the contest to walk away with an improbable 17-16 win.
As a result, the Braves must now travel in this Friday’s first round of the state playoffs.
Following Boyd’s TD run, Bremen senior Jacob Reynolds took the ensuing kickoff 99 yards to close the gap to 16-14.
The Blue Devils next recovered an onside kick to set up the game winning drive that resulted in a 36 yard field goal from senior Devil place-kicker Evan Fuller with just 56 seconds to play in regulation.
The shell-shocked Braves were unable to respond in the waning moments as the visitors came up with a big stop.
Brave head coach Tim Barron was proud of his team’s effort and fight despite the painful loss.
“I just hate it for these kids because they played so hard. They did everything we asked them to do,” Barron said after the game. “They played their tails off and they played tough. Some nights the ball just doesn’t bounce your way, and this was one of those nights.”
Staples Stadium was electric all night with a huge crowd on both sides of the field for the big game.
After a nice defensive stand by the Braves on the Devils’ opening drive of the game, the Braves would take a 6-0 lead on their first offensive series with the key play being the 28-yard TD pass from Leroy Marsh to Ayden Cannon. The PAT attempt was no good.
The Blue Devils went on top 7-6 in the second quarter and held on to that lead until the third quarter when another good Brave offensive series resulted in a 34-yard field goal by junior Brave kicker James Newell.
The Brave defense played well in the game allowing the Devils just 176 yards of total offense.
Appropriately it was several Brave seniors leading the way on defense with Tray Owens, Kesean Johnson, Will Finch, Micaiah Austin, Key Whitlow, Jai Wright, and Jake Harrod each having big nights.
Senior Colson Jiles had a solid night punting the ball to keep the Devils in poor field position for much of the game.
The Brave offense had 225 yards on the night. Again the workhorse, Alex Boyd rushed for 159 yards on 25 carries. Senior Matt Brown had a solid night blocking up front in the trenches.
Other senior Braves on the roster for the game were Cordell Sweet, Dale Thornhill, Jacorian Allen, Austin Cantrelle, Kirby Caputa, Demetrius Brown, and Mark Arnall.
As a result, the Braves are the No. 3 seed in Region 5-AA and will travel north to Lindale, GA this Friday night to take on the Pepperell Dragons, the No. 2 seed from Region 7-AA.
The Braves (4-6, 4-2) have faced the Dragons (8-2, 6-1) twice in postseason play in the last seven years (2013, 2017) and won both games but this will be the first meeting for the two teams at Pepperell.
The winner of Friday night’s round one game would likely travel to Region 1-AA top seed Thomasville for round two barring a round one upset of the Bulldogs by Dodge County — the No. 4 seed from Region 3-AA.
Bremen claims the No. 2 seed and will host Model this week. Region 5-AA Champion Callaway will host Chattooga in round one while No. 4 Temple will travel to current state No. 1 ranked Rockmart.