Wherever he has coached, Cherard Freeman’s teams have focused on running the football. After all what can you expect from a guy who played running back for Paul Johnson at Georgia Southern.
The Bryan County coach’s run-the-ball first philosophy isn’t about to change but if last Friday’s pre-season scrimmage game with Jenkins County is any indication the Redskins will be giving opponents more to think about this season.
The War Eagles, a veteran unit that lost only five seniors off last year’s playoff team, squeaked out a 20-18 win but that wasn’t the news of the night.
First there was senior quarterback Sean Kelly Hill who came out throwing the football and never stopped in his two series of work. Then there was fellow senior Austin “Smush” Clemons who erased any doubts about his health.
“I feel like we’ve got some things to work on but we came out and competed and I was proud of that,” said Freeman who is starting his fourth season at Bryan County. “We played a lot of kids tonight. I was not really worried about the score. We just wanted to get out and let our guys hit a little bit.
“We threw the ball a lot this summer and that’s one of the things I wanted to focus on tonight. I thought we came out and threw the ball real good.”
Hill, who started at quarterback as a freshman and midway through his sophomore season, was impressive in throwing the football. He completed six of eight passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns.
Tanner Ennis had three catches for 62 yards including a 25-yard touchdown catch to open the second half. He zipped past the defender and Hill delivered a perfectly lofted pass which Ennis caught in the end zone without breaking stride for an 18-6 lead.
Tight end Kris Martin got the first score of the game when he hauled in a 14-yard bullet in heavy traffic at the goal line. That touchdown came on the Redskins’ first possession of the game when Hill rolled left and threaded the ball between two defenders to cap a nine-play drive that included five passes and three rushes by Erin Greene that covered 18 yards.
Bryan County’s second touchdown came when junior linebacker Gage Javis covered a fumble in the end zone with 6:50 left in the third quarter.
Clemons was leading the Redskins in rushing and tackles last year when he suffered a knee injury against Portal in the fourth game of the season. Bryan County, which wound up going 6-5 for its first winning season since 2013, was 3-1 at the time.
On the first play of the second half Clemons showed why he is one of the players Freeman is heavily counting on when he hit off left tackle, shook off a couple of defenders who tried to arm tackle him and sprinted 70 yards for a touchdown which was negated by a block-in-the-back penalty.
Clemons was credited with a 13-yard run but that play answered any lingering questions anyone might have had about the 190-pound senior’s status.
“It felt good to be out there,” Clemons said. “I hadn’t played in a long time and I didn’t have any problems.”
While Freeman was happy with Hill’s performance and the return of Clemons, he was disappointed with his team’s conditioning which he said was responsible for two fumbles, one of which the War Eagles converted into the game winning touchdown against the backups.
“We’ve got to get in better shape,” Freeman said. “We had some cramps and that was the most disappointing thing. I felt like we were out of shape and that’s on me. I think we can get that better.
“The fumbles weren’t because of anything the defense did but because we were tired and lost focus. In order for us to get to where we are trying to get, we’ve got to be able to fight through things like that.”
Bryan County will be at Tattnall County on Thursday night for a three-team jamboree. It opens the season on Aug. 18 at Lincoln County.