The Valdosta Daily Times
Brooks County’s football team narrowly avoided a big upset last week. The Trojans know they have to play better to win tonight, against a team that has won its last nine games.
Brooks County, who is 11-0 and ranked No. 2 in Class AA, hosts McIntosh County Academy (9-2) today at 7:30 p.m. at Veterans Stadium in Quitman.
“I’m elated (to be in the second round),” Brooks County head coach Maurice Freeman said. “It’s a great feeling. It is a piece of our team goal. But this is not the end. Our team goal does not end in the second round; we’ve got to go farther.”
McIntosh County Academy has been unranked for most of the year, but the Buccaneers have quietly had a solid season. They lost their first two games (to Glynn Academy, a 5A school, and Vidalia, the No. 3 team in Class AA), but have reeled off nine straight wins since then.
“I think they (have a good team),” Freeman said. “Their head coach (Keith Gosse) was the offensive coordinator for Jay Walls (at Tift County) a couple of years ago. ... He’s done an outstanding job. He went right in and turned that program right back around, got them going and now they’re in the second round of the playoffs already, in his second year.”
McIntosh runs a pistol offense that is led by quarterback Darry Herrington, a dual threat quarterback who can run or throw the ball.
“The quarterback is very skillful,” Freeman said. “He’s a long, rangy kid that runs hard, throws the ball OK and he keeps that offense going. Their tailback (Nick Cummings) runs very hard. They’ve got a receiver (Buzz Saunds). He is very elusive, and catches the ball well.”
The Buccaneers like to use several different defensive fronts.
“On defense, they’ll use multiple sets — 4-4, 4-3, 4-2. They do a lot of things to try to keep you off balance,” Freeman said. “They’re very strong on the offensive and defensive lines. They don’t have a bunch of kids, so they’ve got about eight of them going both ways. So we’ve got to speed the game up, get them tired and try to take the game over.”
Last week, MCA defeated East Laurens 27-6 in the first round of the AA state playoffs.
Brooks survived a scare last Friday, narrowly defeating a Macon County team that had gone 4-6 in the regular season. The Trojans never trailed, and led nearly the entire game, but Macon County cut their lead to four points, 22-18, in the fourth quarter and Brooks’ defense had to stop the Bulldogs in the final minute to prevent what probably would have been the biggest upset of the first round.
Brooks’ coach was pleased to win the game and move on. But he has made it clear to the Trojans that they will have to play a lot better if they want to win the state championship.
“That was a great wake up call,” Freeman said. “That was a quality team. They were not the 4-6 team that we thought we were playing. ... They played a heck of a ballgame.”
“We played well the first half. I thought we did everything we needed to do in the first half. In the second half, I feel like we stunk it up,” Brooks’ coach added. “We didn’t do well in the second half. We didn’t block well, we didn’t tackle well. And when you don’t block and tackle, it can cost you ball games.”
One thing that hurt Brooks on both sides of the ball was an injury to star quarterback Malkom Parrish. Parrish injured his ankle in the first half, and played at far less than 100 percent. The injury kept Parrish from being able to run the ball, and Freeman did not play him any more on defense (he is also a defensive back). Not having to worry about Parrish running the ball made things easier for the Bulldogs defensively, and robbed the Trojans of possibly their best runner.
“It really (hurt us). It threw us for a big loop,” Freeman said. “It was a letdown for the whole team when he went down. It shook them all up. It was tough regrouping, but they did regroup.”
Parrish’s ankle has healed, so he should be able to run and throw the ball tonight. Now he has a new problem — tonsillitis. But Parrish is a fierce competitor, and he will play tonight.
“Malkom’s fine. He’s practiced all week,” Freeman said. “He’s got a slight case of tonsillitis. That’s the only thing that’s wrong with him. That ankle is fine. He’s a tough kid. He could play with pain. It’s not the ankle we’re worried about, it’s the tonsillitis.”
Freeman says that Brooks has had a good week of practice this week. With school out for Thanksgiving, the Trojans have been practicing from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. On Thursday, they practiced at 9 a.m., then went home to celebrate Thanksgiving with their families.
“We’ve really fine-tuned everything, making sure that our guys are on point,” Freeman said Wednesday. “It seems like they are, and they’re focused. We’ve had a real good week of practice. We’ll finish up our polish and shine on Thanksgiving, and play this great game of football on Friday.”