QUITMAN -- Tift County scored two touchdowns on kickoff returns and another on a fumble return, and those three scores led the Blue Devils to a 27-7 victory over Brooks County Friday at Veterans Stadium.
Tift, ranked No. 9 in Class AAAAA, had just 78 yards of total offense, but won thanks to the 21 points its other units gave it.
Tift got on the scoreboard quickly, as Israel Troupe caught the opening kickoff at the 11, then raced through the Brooks kick coverage, going 89 yards for a touchdown. Charlie Edwards kicked the extra point, and the Blue Devils led 7-0.
The score remained 7-0 until the middle of the second quarter, as mistakes killed Tift County drives more than once.
Midway through the first quarter, Troupe returned a punt to the Brooks 26. But Shuman was sacked at the 35 on third down, pushing the Blue Devils out of field goal range and forcing them to punt.
At the beginning of the second quarter, Tift moved the ball to the BCHS 23, but a personal foul on Tift's Blake Askew again pushed the Blue Devils out of field goal range.
Tift's first successful drive came late in the first half, when it moved the ball from its own 36 to the Brooks 16. That set up Edwards' 33-yard field goal, and made it 10-0 with 1:46 left in the half.
On the first play of Brooks' ensuing possession, Brooks' Anthony Bryan was stripped of the ball at his own 17. Tift's Jay Gaskins scooped up the ball and ran it untouched into the end zone for the touchdown, making it 17-0. It was Gaskins' third fumble return for a touchdown this year.
Gaskins also recovered a fumble on the next drive, but Edwards missed a 30-yard field goal with nine seconds left in the half.
Brooks did not have a first down the entire first half, and was unable to mount a serious drive, thanks in large part to Tift's outstanding defense, which held the Trojans' pair of 1,200 yard rushers, A.D. Phillips and Donnell Golden, to less than 40 yards rushing combined.
But in the second half, Brooks took advantage of its first possession in Tift territory, which came after Phillips returned the second half kickoff to the Blue Devil 47. Tift halted the drive, but then on fourth down, Brooks coach Ryan Branch called a fake punt, and Anthony Bryan, the upback and the Brooks quarterback, threw a 32-yard pass for a first down at the Tift 14.
Four plays later, Brooks again found itself in fourth-and-long, from the 12, and decided to go for it. Bryan rolled out and threw to a wide open Golden out of the backfield. Golden outran a defender to the end zone, and put the Trojans on the board, 17-7.
Unfortunately for the Trojans, the touchdown meant they had to kick off. Randy Parker took the kick this time, at the 8, and like Troupe, he sped through Brooks' kick coverage, then broke away for the touchdown. That increased Tift's lead to 24-7.
Edwards' 44-yard field goal at the end of the third quarter made it 27-7 Blue Devils, completing the scoring.
Late in the game, Brooks drove from its own 20 to the Tift 11, largely on the strength of their passing game, which accounted for three first downs on the drive. But a Brooks player dropped a pass in the end zone, and the Trojans wound up turning the ball over on downs.
Troupe had 89 yards receiving for Tift, accounting for all but two of Blue Devils quarterback Scott Shuman's passing yards Friday. Bryan threw for 124 yards for Brooks.
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