Bryan County rolled up 481 yards, 383 on the ground, Friday night in beating Pelham, 34-6, to advance to the Elite Eight of the GHSA Class A-D1 state playoffs.
While the offense pretty much had its own way, it was the Redskins defense which stood out in what might have been Bryan County’s most physical game of the season.
“The best thing I saw out there was that we played a physical football team and our team, our boys, stood up to the challenge,” Coach Cherard Freeman said. “They were physical, we were physical and we did not one time ever hesitate about not playing.”
“We played lights out defensively,” Freeman said. “I know we gave up eight points but we gave up a cheap one (touchdown). We had a couple of guys out of the play on defense and gave up a quick score but overall, I think our coaches had our boys ready to play.”
“Special teams, offense, defense…they were ready to play football tonight. I’m just proud of them. Proud of them.”
The win means the Running Redskins (11-1) will play a third straight state playoff game at home as they will host Commerce (11-1) at 7 p.m. Friday. The Tigers advanced with a 34-14 win over Dade County.
Austin Clemons ran for 165 yards and scored three touchdowns along with two two-point conversions to lead the victors who also got another outstanding performance from Jacari Carney who added 146 yards on 22 carries. Carney had 188 yards, four touchdowns and a two-point conversion last week against East Laurens.
Clemons now has 1,574 yards rushing on the season and needs only 22 more to top Nick Scott’s school record 1,595 set in 2013. Carney has 921 despite missing three games due to injury. Clemons also missed one game due to a bruised shoulder.
Bryan County and Pelham were mirror images of one another as both eschewed the pass in favor of a pounding ground game.
However, it was the Redskins’ ability to throw the ball that tilted the game in their favor.
In a sign of how the game was going to be played on its first possession Bryan County methodically drove 95 yards on 16 plays while eating up over six minutes on the clock to take an 8-0 lead, Clemons scoring from 18 yards out on a power sweep to the right. He then added the conversion on a run off left tackle.
The lead stood until 33 seconds left in the first half when Hornets quarterback Den Johnson, Jr., scored on a 35-yard run through the middle of the Bryan County defense. When Nathaniel Walker ran for the two=point conversion it looked like the half was going to end all even.
Sean Kelly Hill and Tanner Ennis, however, had different ideas.
Getting the ball at the ball at their own 35 when the kickoff went out of bounds the Redskins sent Carney to the left for 15 yards and after Clemons got two yards Hill lofted a high arcing pass down the right sideline which Ennis caught and never broke stride for a stunning score and a 14-8 lead.
Bryan County got the second half kickoff and needed only five plays to go 49 yards, 38 coming on a run by Clemons who got the touchdown on a 3-yard run.
Two possessions later Carson Nunn ran 42 yards for a touchdown with 3:26 left in the third quarter and if there were any doubts about the outcome that play essentially erased them. Clemons got his third touchdown and the conversion with 5:14 left to set the final score.
“Sean Kelly Hill is a leader for us on offense and defense,” Freeman said. “He made some great plays tonight. He played a really good football game.”
“We had a lot of kids contribute,” Freeman said. “Luke Holcombe had a big sack to end a drive, Elijah Mincey had an interception to end another drive, Carson Nunn had that big run. Jacari is playing really well and Smush (Clemons) and Tanner did their thing.”
“It’s a great feeling to be able to play in front of the people of Pembroke. It’s something to see everybody excited. It’s what Friday night football should be like.”
PELHAM 0 8 0 0 --- 8
BRYAN COUNTY 8 6 12 8 --- 34
BC: Austin Clemons 18 run (Clemons run)
P: Den Johnson Jr 35 run (Nathaniel Walker run)
BC: Tanner Ennis 48 pass from Sean Kelly Hill (run failed)
BC: Clemons 3 run (run failed)
BC: Carson Nunn 42 run (run failed)
BC: Clemons 2 run (Clemons run)