Bryan County’s most successful football season in nine years ended on a sour note but Coach Cherard Freeman said it did not take away from his team’s accomplishments.
And, unlike many past seasons this one ended with everyone looking to the future which appears to be bright. The Redskins lost at Heard County, 27-16, in an opening round game of the Class A-D1 state playoffs on a night which Freeman described as “a rough one.
We made mistakes and got some bad calls.”
While the third-year Bryan County coach was not happy with the officiating he also did not blame it for the loss noting his team made errors which it simply couldn’t overcome against a team making its 18th straight playoff appearance.
The Braves are in the second round for the third time in the last four years after winning the state championship in 2018.
“We felt we had a real good shot at them,” Freeman said. “We spotted them 14 points. We threw an interception in the red zone and they had a pick six.
“We played good football overall,” Freeman said. “I was worried about that but the game at Claxton, I felt, got us prepared for the game with Heard County.”
Bryan County’s final regular season game was a 40-16 win at Claxton before a packed house in the Tigers’ final game in their famed Pecan Grove stadium. It was, Freeman said, a playoff atmosphere and the Redskins played one of their better overall games of the season. The win over the Tigers enabled Bryan County (6-5) to finish with its first winning season since 2013 and first playoff appearance since 2015. To get an idea of how far the program has come under Freeman the school had won seven games since 2015 prior to this season.
“I feel really good about what’s going on,” Freeman said. “The new season started on Monday, not next summer. We went into the weight room and we’re going to work on that all winter.”
The Redskins lose seven seniors including starters Konnor Leggett, Carter Tapley and Tarrell Singleton. The other seniors are Michael Owens, Jordan Flannell, Kameron Boggs and Jordan Wells.
Freeman had 18 juniors on this year’s 47-man roster and several of them, headed by Austin Clemens, Tanner Ennis and Sean Kelly Hill, started as freshmen. John Good, Luke Holcombe and Jet Lewis will lead what could be a good line, both offensively and defensively.
Holcombe had one of the Redskins’ touchdowns against Heard when he recovered a bad punt snap in the end zone and Konnor Leggett added a 10-yard touchdown run.
Having a healthy Clemens next year will be vitally important. He was the team’s leading rusher and tackler when he was lost for the season with a knee injury in the first series of the Portal game.
“Smush is a big part of what we do,” Freeman said. “Losing him was a big blow but no one quit or gave up. The kids continued to play hard and we’ve got something to build on.”