METTER -The football gods have not been kind to Bryan County over the years, but Friday night they smiled on the Redskins who beat Metter for the first time in 10 years when they escaped with a 21-20 win at Metter.
It was the Region 3A-D1 opener for both teams and the win puts Bryan County (6-1, 1-0) in control of its own destiny as it seeks its first ever region championship. Metter has won the region the last three years.
In securing a winning season for the second year in a row—a first for the Redskins who started playing football in 1976—a win this Friday night over Screven County would, Coach Cherard Freeman told his team afterwards, secure the region title.
“The streak is over,” Freeman said as he addressed his team. “If we win next week (Screven) we will win the region championship. I guarantee it.”
It could have been Freeman speaking in the emotion of the moment but results to date give credence to his proclamation.
After the Gamecocks (2-4, 0-0) the Redskins have only Claxton (2-5, 1-0) and Savannah High (0-7, 0-1) remaining and all three of those games are at home. Claxton beat Savannah High, 21-0, last Friday while Screven was idle.
The win over the Tigers wasn’t decided until 20 seconds remained when Metter kicker Fidel Esquivel pushed his extra point attempt to the right. It was a rare miss for Esquivel who in pre-game warmups and at halftime was routinely splitting the uprights from 50 yards out.
The game was delayed for nearly an hour when the stadium lights went out with 5:28 remaining in the third quarter. When play resumed only three of the four banks of lights was operable and when teams reached the dark side of the field the ball was then moved to the lighted end.
The delay nearly proved to be costly for Bryan County which appeared to lose some of its intensity and focus after spending time in the locker room. It was also basically without star running back and linebacker Austin Clemons who played sparingly in the second half after suffering what appeared to be a possible shoulder or arm injury.
“He got banged up,” Freeman said. “It was a very physical game. It’s something we’ll have to look at this week. The delay definitely hurt us, I thought. We didn’t come out and play with the same intensity after having to sit around in the locker room.”
Quarterback Sean Kelly Hill, who scored the first touchdown of the game on a 1-yard run to cap an 11 play, 66-yard drive off the opening kickoff, also limped off the field with an injured ankle on Esquivel’s missed extra point.
Clemons entered the game as the fourth-leading rusher in the state in all classes with 990 yards and he tacked on another 107 on 20 carries. He was limited to three carries for six yards in the second half. The school record for a single season is held by Nick Scott who had 1,595 yards in 11 games in 2013.
Bryan County dominated the first half as it controlled the ball and the clock in building its 21-7 halftime lead. The Redskins ran 38 plays to Metter’s 12 as they scored on all three possessions and had the ball for 19 minutes.
Following Hill’s score Bryan County took 15 plays to go 70 yards to make it a 14-0 game when Clemons scored on a 5-yard run three minutes into the second quarter.
The Redskins showed their mettle as they responded to a 6-yard scoring run by Mike Ricks with a 64-yard march that saw Jacari Carney power his way into the end zone from 7-yards out with six seconds on the clock.
Cooper Ennis then kicked his third extra point which proved to be the difference in the game.
Defensively, Freeman could not have asked for much more from his team as it forced four turnovers, three in the second half. Kris Martin had a first half interception, Ger-bravion Collins had an end zone pick in the third and Erin Greene got an interception on the first play of the fourth quarter. Luke Holcombe recovered a fumble in the third after Clemons stripped the ballcarrier.
Metter scored on a 62-yard punt return by Rodrigus Kelley with 9:21 to play and then the Tigers went 80 yards on their final possession to put themselves in position to force overtime only to see the extra point try go awry.
Bryan County finished with 251 yards total offense, 51 coming in the second half. It had 219 yards rushing with Carney contributing 42, Anddreas McKinny 37 and Greene 33.