BRUNSWICK – Statesboro’s defense forced six turnovers and the Blue Devils rode a defensive touchdown from Bryant Roberts to beat Brunswick 14-10 Friday at Glynn County Stadium.
With 3:18 left in the third quarter and BHS leading 10-7, Brunswick quarterback Davis Hoyt hit Wesley Smith on a wide receiver screen. As Smith was fighting for extra yards, SHS defensive back Aaron Cone stripped the ball. It popped loose and straight into the hands of Roberts who took it 27 yards the other way for the score.
“I missed my tackle so I was already mad,” said Cone. “I went back (after Smith) and just tried to do whatever (I could).”
The score couldn’t have come at a better time for SHS (7-2), who had let a 7-0 lead slip away.
“I was just surprised it popped out,” said Roberts of the game-winning play.
The play came immediately after BHS changed to back-up QB Hoyt from senior starter Jonathan Dixon. Neither of the two had a good night, as they combined for four interceptions, two by Cone.
“I was reading pretty good tonight,” said Cone, a junior. “We worked hard all week, on all their plays. They just had some bad passes and some tipped balls.”
Cone was also directly involved in Statesboro’s only offensive score of the night.
On a 3rd-and-15 from the Brunswick 17, starter Luke Connell rolled to his right and found Diego Prince on the sideline at the 1 to set up first and goal. Connell, however, was hit in the backfield and rattled for at least the next play. Cone, also the back-up QB, came in to hand the ball off to Nic Lanier to make it 7-7.
Lanier would miss the entire second half with an injury, but is expected to play next Friday. Connell returned and played the rest of the night.
Brunswick (6-3, 5-3 region 3-AAAA) tied the game just before halftime on a wild desperation attempt from Dixon. On first down from the SHS 47, Dixon stepped up in the pocket and launched the ball down the middle of the field. The ball was overthrown by a long shot, but it found the stomach of Jarvis Williams, who turned and ran to his right 15 yards for the score.
The half ended on a missed field goal set up by another crazy series of events. Dixon’s first down pass from the 44 with eight seconds left was picked off by Willie Shelton, but Shelton was then stripped and Brunswick recovered on the 6. With no time on the clock, Statesboro committed a personal foul at the end of the play and BHS was given the ball to attempt a field goal. Carson Martin’s kick went wide right though, and the game remained tied.
“Mistakes make the difference in a close game,” said SHS coach Steve Pennington. “We made our share, but Brunswick did too. And fortunately for us, they made a few more mistakes than we did.”
Jeffrey spells also had an interception while Willie Burden recovered a fumble. Freshman safety Joe Collins broke up two big passes, one in the end zone, and senior Leo Polk blocked a field goal.
“We just had to contain their quarterback and pursue to the ball,” said defensive lineman Deangelo Tyson. “Pursuing to the ball was a good aspect of the game for us. We knew we had to win and we just played good on both sides of the ball.”
Both teams opened the game with impressive drives.
The Blue Devils took the ball 62 yards to the BHS 2 on the game’s opening drive, but stalled and Caleb Brown pushed a 19-yard field goal wide left.
Brunswick took it the other way 75 yards to the SHS 5, but Polk came off the left corner and got both hands on Martin’s 27-yarder to keep the game scoreless.
Brunswick took its only lead at the 7:01 mark of the third quarter on a 34-yard boot by Martin inside the left upright. But the three Pirate giveaways after that made the difference in the contest.
“We made progress,” Pennington added. “This has been a growth in progress throughout the year. A young secondary certainly stepped up tonight. At this juncture in the season we have to play good defense. Our offense did a good enough job to keep the ball and work some time off the clock. We executed and made some plays, but we still have to be more consistent.”
The win kept Statesboro’s (6-2 Region 3-AAAA) playoff and region championship hopes alive. The Blue Devils welcome region front runner Ware County next Friday on Senior Night at Womack Field.