Bryan County losing to Prince Avenue Christian in the semifinals of the GHSA Class A-D1 state playoffs last Friday did not come as a surprise. Nor did the 49-14 score.
The Wolverines entered the game as the defending state champions and as a heavy favorite. Prince Avenue had been beating opponents by an average score of 45-15 so the score they hung up on the Redskins was about par for the course.
The surprise to nearly everyone outside of North Bryan County—and even some of those folks probably found it hard to believe—was that Bryan County was one of the four teams still alive in the championship race.
Cinderella, dream season, and magic year were some of the terms bandied about by the media and others when talking and writing about the Redskins’ season. And perhaps in some respect those terms did apply.
However, there was no surprise in the Redskins locker room or on the coaching staff. There was not a player who looked at this as a dream or magical season. This was a team which expected to be playing in December. No question the loss was disappointing and hard to accept. It was a bitter pill to acknowledge the better team won.
But last Friday night the Wolverines (13-1) were the better team and Redskins coach Cherard Freeman expects them to be the better team when they play Swainsboro for the state championship at 4 p.m. on Dec. 11 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“They had no flaws at any position,” Freeman said. “Very seldom do you find a high school team with a good player at every position.”
Bryan County (12-2) is a team which relies on a strong running game and the game plan called for the Redskins to control the ball and thus keep Wolverines quarterback Aaron Philo off the field or limit his team’s offensive possessions.
That plan got blown up in the first four minutes when Philo and freshman wide receiver Hudson Hill teamed up for two quick touchdowns. Things quickly got out of hand from there.
“They hit it quick,” Freeman said. “Their whole offensive and defensive lines are ready to play college football. They didn’t have any weaknesses. I don’t see any way Swainsboro can beat them.”
The game with Swainsboro will be a rematch of last year’s championship game which Prince Avenue won, 52-34. Should it prevail, it will be PAC’s third championship in the last four years.
The early 14-0 lead quickly became 28-0 when the Wolverines scored with 45 seconds left in the first quarter. It was 42-0 at the half and from there on it was merely a formality to play out the game to the finish.
The Redskins got on the board in the third quarter thanks to a touchdown pass from Shawn Kelly Hill to Kris Martin. Austin Clemons added a touchdown in the fourth quarter after Philo had scored on a run.
“I’m really proud of these kids,” Freeman said. “They played a really good football team with some good athletes hard until the very end.
“They finished up as seniors the way they did when they were freshmen,” Freeman said. “We didn’t win a game their freshman year and we got beat pretty good in some games.
“But no matter what the score was, they played hard to the end as ninth-graders and they were still playing hard at the end of the game as seniors. That says a lot about their character. They don’t have to hang their heads about anything and they should be proud of what they’ve accomplished.”
Philo, who will enroll at Georgia Tech in January, wound up passing for 490 yards and four touchdowns. He now needs only 301 yards to surpass Trevor Lawrence’s state record 13,902. Hill had five catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns.