The Valdosta Daily Times
The Brooks County football team has had a great season so far. The Trojans hope to keep their season going for three more weeks.
First, they have to find a way to get past the No. 1 team in Class AA. Brooks, which is 12-0 and ranked No. 2, will drive 300 miles north to face top-ranked Calhoun (also 12-0) on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
For the second year in a row, the Trojans will have to make the long drive from Quitman to Calhoun (a city located about 20 miles south of Dalton and 40 miles from the Tennessee border). The trip is long, but Brooks’ coach hopes that it won’t have too much effect on the team.
“Experience is important,” Brooks head coach Maurice Freeman said. “I think it’s important for this game. We’re not going to a new territory; we’re going somewhere we’ve been before. We understand what the crowd’s going to be like. We understand what the stadium is going to look like and feel like (and) the electricity in the stadium. ... Sometimes that gives you a culture shock. It doesn’t give us a shock at all. We know what to expect. So what’s left is going out and playing the game.
“Obviously, riding that far is going to get you a little bit. But we play well on the road. We’re focused. It’s not a big deal to us.”
The Trojans will board a charter bus on Friday morning and head north to Calhoun. They will stop in Macon and practice at Westside’s field, then they will resume their trip north to Calhoun.
This will be the third time in the last five seasons that Brooks and Calhoun have met in the playoffs. Calhoun won the last two games.
Their 2008 meeting in Quitman, in the state semifinals, was a classic, as the Trojans and the Yellow Jackets traded touchdowns all night. But it was also a heartbreaker for Brooks, with a controversial ending. With Calhoun leading 38-35 and 17 seconds left on the clock, Brooks ran the ball near the goal line, close enough that it was difficult to tell whether or not the runner had scored before his knee hit the ground. One of the side judges rushed in and ruled that the runner was down inches from the goal line. Then somehow the football disappeared. No one on the field could find the ball (after watching video of the game, Freeman said that a Calhoun player kicked the ball out of the end zone, possibly frustrated because he thought that Brooks had scored). The officials were unable to find the ball before the rest of the time ticked off the clock (Brooks didn’t have any timeouts), and Calhoun got the win.
“(The 2008 game) ended bitter,” Freeman said. “We thought he scored, (but) the officials saw it different. On top of that, one of their defenders kicked the ball, and there wasn’t an unsportsmanlike (conduct) penalty called. They should have at least stopped the game and spotted the ball. We didn’t even get a chance to run another play.”
Last year, in their second-round matchup in Calhoun, the Yellow Jackets jumped out to a big lead early on, and defeated Brooks 43-30. Calhoun went on to win the state championship.
“Last year, they beat us pretty good,” Freeman said. “They had a real good football team. Obviously you can tell, because they beat Buford (in the state championship game).
“In ’08, we were evenly matched; it was a great game. (In 2011) they had our number. So we’re certainly hoping that in 2012 it’s our turn.”
That 2011 defeat was the Trojans’ last loss. This year, they have won 12 straight games, and have made it to the quarterfinals for the third time since 2008.
Freeman is pleased with how well the Trojans have played so far, but he’s not satisfied yet.
“(This season has) been real special to us. We’ve enjoyed it,” Freeman said. “The things that we talked about during the summer panned out for us. The goals are still in front of us. We wanted an undefeated regular season; we got it. We wanted a region title; we got it. So now we’re shooting for a state championship. As long as we’re playing, we’ve still got a legitimate chance.”
Last Friday, Brooks beat McIntosh County Academy 49-21. The Trojans amassed 408 yards of total offense and scored seven touchdowns, quarterback Malkom Parrish threw for 271 yards and five touchdowns and Brooks’ defense held the Buccaneers scoreless in the second half.
“I was really pleased with the way we played,” Freeman said. “I think we made a couple of big mental mistakes, but I think we were extremely aggressive. I think Malkom threw the ball well, our receivers caught the ball well and defensively we did what we needed to do by swarming around, team tackling and causing turnovers. We caused eight turnovers; that’s big. You don’t lose games if you cause eight turnovers. When we got in the red zone, we put the ball in the end zone.”