Vidalia easily won the Region 2-AA showdown for second place Friday night at Bryan County, meaning the Redskins will open the playoffs on the road next week.
The Indians (7-3, 5-2 in region) locked up a home playoff game next week with a punishing, physical running attack while mixing in a couple of passes for good measure. Vidalia’s defense also dominated the Redskins (5-5, 5-2) for most of the game, which saw Bryan County’s four-game winning streak come to an end.
Vidalia marched 56 yards to the end zone, overcoming an illegal-procedure penalty along the way. Quarterback Hall Graham ran it in 2 yards to put the Indians up 7-0 early to cap a drive that ate up more than half of the first quarter.
After Bryan County went three and out on its opening drive, Vidalia responded with another scoring drive. This one was much faster, as Shon Jones ran 42 yards into the end zone to open up a 14-0 lead.
“I thought they were a little more physical than us,” Redskin coach Allen Cartwright said. “They’re a strong, physical football team, and we just did not play very well. We didn’t respond very well to the physical nature of the game tonight.”
The second quarter saw two huge momentum swings.
First, Bryan County forced a three-and-out by Vidalia. On the next offensive play, Kimonte Murray picked up some blockers as he swept around to the right and down the sideline, running 55 yards for a touchdown. That cut the Indians’ lead to 14-7 with 8:17 left until halftime.
“There was good blocking there,” Cartwright said. “(Murray) found the daylight and showed good balance and found the end zone.”
But that was as close as the Redskins would get.
Vidalia quickly seized control of the game again with a methodical drive that started at its own 32. Tyler Roundtree ran 34 yards to the Redskins’ 21. A few plays later, Graham hooked up with Jaxson McFadden for a 1-yard TD pass to re-establish the Indians’ 14-point lead, 21-7, with 4:40 left before the half.
Bryan County turned the ball over on downs at midfield. Then the Indians marched down into field-goal range, where Hector Lara nailed a 30-yard attempt to put Vidalia up 24-7 at the half.
“I think where they’re at, they’re a little bigger, a little more physical than us right now,” Cartwright said of Vidalia. “And that style of game kind of suits them.”
The Redskins gave themselves one more chance to get back in the game with their longest drive to start the third quarter. They started at their own 38 and moved down the field, aided by a pass-interference call against Vidalia. The drive stalled inside the Indians’ 10 and a field-goal try missed wide right.
Vidalia quickly made Bryan County pay.
Jones ran 42 yards to the Redskins’ 37. A few plays later, Jadarius McLendon ran 11 yards into the end zone to increase the Indians’ lead to 30-7 with 2:05 left in the third quarter.
At this point, the Redskins’ defense came up with a couple of stops. Jones ran 18 yards and looked like he was going to score until he fumbled, and Devontae Anderson recovered it inside the Redskins’ 1.
After a quick three-and-out by the offense, the defense had another moment. This time, the Indians started at the Bryan County 34 and made it all the way to 2 before the Redskins’ defense denied them a score.
“They got wore down a little bit, but they hung in there,” Cartwright said of his defensive unit. “We’ve got to regroup and come back and continue to try to get better, and that’s what we’ll do.”
The Indians’ defense responded with a big play of its own. On first down, Bryant Phillips was tackled inside the end zone for a Vidalia safety, making the lead 32-7 with 2:44 left in the game.
The Indians had good field position, at their own 44, after the Redskins’ free kick. McLendon broke free for a 28-yard run to get to the Bryan County 25. Then Jones ran for a 25-yard touchdown to give Vidalia its final 39-7 margin.
Next up for Bryan County is a playoff game at another tough opponent, Region 3-AA’s Screven County. The Gamecocks finished their 9-1 season with a 29-16 win over region opponent Metter on Friday.
Cartwright said the Redskins have had a “very good season.”
“Hopefully, we can continue to shake things up and keep going after next week,” he said.