CLAXTON – Friday night the Redskins of Bryan County continued their winning ways on the road against the Claxton Tigers with a 35-16 comeback victory in a Region 3A battle.
With state playoff possibilities facing both teams, fans expected a high intensity game as playoff hopes were on the line and that is what the fans saw Friday night. Bryan County won the toss, but deferred to get the ball until the second half, so Claxton started the game with the ball.
Starting at their own 32-yard line, the Tigers running game went to work and soon found their way into the endzone from 8 yards out. The 2-point conversion was good and Claxton led 8-0.
After the kickoff, Bryan County took over at their own 35 and the Redskins’ backfield tandem took over and capped off a touchdown drive of their own finished off by a 10-yard scamper from Ivey Mutcherson. The 2-point try was no good and a see-saw offensive battle seemed to be underway.
Claxton saw their second offensive series stall when D.J. McElroy intercepted a Tiger pass on the Bryan County 10 as Claxton was marching down for another possible score. This turnover gave Bryan County the ball, but Claxton was the next team to score again when they mounted another scoring drive with 6:24 left in the second quarter. After another 2-point conversion, the teams went into halftime with Claxton leading 16-6 and momentum in the Tigers’ favor.
As usual, a fired up Redskins team came out onto the field and you could sense the winds were about to change.
"We made some defensive adjustments at halftime with our linebackers and that gave Claxton some problems," BCHS Coach Ron Lewis said. "They were getting to our linebackers in the first half and from watching film this week we didn’t feel they should be able to do that, so we made a few adjustments and that made a difference in our success in the second half."
The second half saw Bryan County with the ball first and their offense came out like gangbusters and would not be denied. Behind the leadership of quarterback McElroy, the offense cranked it up a notch and quickly put up another 6 points on a Deandre Walker 7 yard touchdown run. The conversion attempt failed, but Bryan County had now made it 16-12 and were well on their way to the 475 total yards of offense they eventually produced.
Claxton had no success on their first series of the second half as defensive pressure from Bryan County stuffed their running game and forced them to punt.
This series, the Redskins continued to rely on the legs of the three horsemen, Mutcherson, Walker, and Justin Bostic, but it was a 4th-and-17 pass from McElroy to Winston Johnston that saw Johnston with a sideline catch that put the ball on the Claxton 4-yard line. With 1:20 on the third quarter clock, Mutcherson punched it in from the 4 for another Bryan County touchdown and Walker ran in the 2-point conversion to give the Redskins the lead at 20-16.
The Redskins’ defense continued to shut down a good Claxton rushing attack in the second half on their way to the 35-16 victory. Led by the 10 tackle performance of Bostick and Willie Harris, who had 9 tackles, the entire Redskins’ defense played relentlessly to shut down the Claxton offense. Senior leader, Mike Mitchell, who had two consecutive tackles for loss in the second half, commented after the game, "We got together at halftime and I told them we had 24 minutes left in the game, so let’s go out there and have nothing but 24 minutes of pure hitting and leave nothing on the field."
The defense took that to heart with a stellar performace in critical situations, but the Redskin offense still had some business of their own to take care of.
With 7:45 remaining in the game, Mutcherson added a 63-yard scamper around right end for his third touchdown of the night and adding to his 233 total rushing yards for the contest. Quarterback McElroy, found Tyler Burgstiner in the back of the endzone for a 2 point conversion pass to give Bryan County a commanding 28-16 lead. After the game, the Redskins running backs, Mutcherson, Bostick, and Walker praised their offensive line.
"All three of us have our own style of running, but without the line blocking we couldn’t produce like we did tonight,"said a smiling Walker. Bostick said "This win puts us in the playoffs and that is big, especially for us seniors."
Still unable to establish much on offense, Claxton found themselves at the mercy of the Redskins’ defense and Bryan County added another score with 2:42 left in the game when Walker busted through the middle of the line from 7 yards out for his second touchdown of the night. The extra-point kick by Taylor Lucas went through the uprights to put the nail in the coffin and the scoreboard showed Bryan County 35-16.
After stuffing a Claxton 4th and goal running play from the 2 yard line, Bryan County only had to take a knee as the final 11 seconds ticked off the clock. Final score: Bryan County 35 Claxton 16. Bryan County will play their final regular season game on Friday night in Pembroke against Calvary for Homecoming.
"Our younger JV guys have done a great job in simulating the opposing teams offense at our practices so we get a good look at what we will be facing each week," Lewis said. "They are learning different schemes that other teams run and so they are learning the game of football and are really doing a great job for us in that area, and without them we would not be as successful as we have been recently."