When you find yourself unbeaten and ranked for the first time in school history the expectations and pressures become greater and can be difficult to deal with.
This can make for some tough and difficult nights. It’s a lot easier being the chaser than the chasee. That’s the situation in which No. 10 Bryan County (4-0) now finds itself.
The Redskins got a taste of what they can expect for the rest of the season when they played at Portal (2-2) last Friday night
In a game where turnovers and penalties tend to become magnified, opponents play a little harder and when that opponent is also a good football team it can make for a difficult night.
That was the case when Bryan County needed a touchdown from Austin Clemons with less than a minute to play to slip past Portal, 22-14, in their neighborhood get together.
With the clock winding down the Redskins found themselves in a 14-14 deadlock in a game it had dominated offensively only to see penalties and turnovers halt promising drives.
It wasn’t until Clemons, who received an offer from Middle Tennessee State University after the game, scored with 54 seconds to play that the issue was decided.
It was Clemons’ third touchdown of the game and it set up another strong test this week as the Redskins play at unbeaten Telfair County (3-0). Telfair beat the Redskins, 36-20, last year en route to a 9-3 season that saw them advance to the second round of the Class A-DII state playoffs.
Clemons finished the night with 198 yards on 28 carries as he upped his season total to 661 yards with nine touchdowns. He initially was credited with 144 yards on 26 carries but film study showed him picking up the additional yardage. Erin Greene added 123 as the Redskins ran for 382 as a team.
Defensively Clemons also had a big night as he racked up 14 tackles and three sacks. It was against Portal last year that Clemons suffered a broken leg which ended his season.
A Bryan County win at Telfair would enable it to equal the 2013 team’s 5-0 start which is also the team’s best ever.
“We moved the ball at will,” Coach Cherard Freeman said. “We just made some boneheaded plays.
“It was kind of bad,” Freeman said. “We’ve got to get that corrected and we will.
“It was penalties that got us a couple of times. We had some real drive stoppers. There were a couple of personal fouls, a chop block. That kind of stuff.”
The game was what Freeman expected in that it was a physical contest between two programs who entered the season with high expectations. The Panthers had opened the season with two shutout wins before losing at Screven County, 22-21, last week.
The final drive of the night was vintage Bryan County football under Freeman who is a run first, run second and run again advocate.
“We can pass the ball if we really need to,” Freeman said. “With our offensive line we’ve been able to run the ball so we haven’t had to pass.”
Clemons’ touchdown capped a drive that began at the Redskins’ 34-yard line. A holding call immediately set them back 10 yards and from there they ran the ball nine straight times to go 76 yards.
As an indication of how the night had gone on the previous series Clemons had broken loose on a long run from near midfield only to get the ball knocked away from behind near the 20-yard line. The Panthers fell on the ball to momentarily halt the inevitable.
Bryan County took the opening kickoff and drove for an early 6-0 lead with Clemons scoring on a 2-yard run. The big play in the series was a 32-yard pass from Sean Kelly Hill to tight end Kris Martin that put the ball on the three.
Portal responded and tied the score at 6-6 when Florida commit Amir Jackson hauled in a 23-yard touchdown pass.
On the ensuing possession the Redskins got a taste of what the evening held in store. Thery were again moving the ball having picked up 39 yards on only three plays when Hill was stripped of the ball.
Portal, with the help of a roughing the passer call, moved ahead 14-6 but again could not stop Bryan County as it took the kickoff and tied the game when Clemons scored on a 14-yard run to cap a four-play, 48-yard march. The two-point conversion made it 14-14 at the half and that was the way things stood until the final minute.
The Redskins defense, which has given up only 30 points this season, had another big night as it held Portal to 187 yards, 77 of those coming on its first touchdown drive.
Bryan County is the only team in Region 3A-DI with a winning record. Metter (1-4) lost to Dublin, 28-0; Claxton lost to Wheeler County, 46-7; Screven County lost to Jenkins County, 39-0, and Savannah (0-5) lost to Cross Creek, 28-0, in a game called in the third quarter due to fighting on the field.
The Redskins’ next home game is Sept. 29 when they face Montgomery County for Homecoming. They open region play on Oct. 6 at Metter.