Wildcats’ defense fends off late Volunteers’ chargePublished 10:14am Monday, September 1, 2014
Benjamiun Russell coach Danny Horn said he knew that leading the Wildcats to a win in Clay County would be a tall order.
But his homecoming was a successful one as the ‘Cats’ defense stiffened up at the right time and held off a late Vols rally to defeat Class 5A No. 4 Central-Clay County 23-15.
With the Volunteers facing the task of driving 98 yards for a potential game-tying scenario with just over a minute left, Central-Clay stalled at its own 20-yard line.
The Wildcats were able to pressure Vols quarterback Jaylon Lyles into errant throws, with Lyle’s final heave being bopped around before a sprawling Q. Johnson secured it for an interception.
“I’m proud of our boys,” Horn said. “Any time you can come down here and win, you’ve done something.”
The Wildcats appeared on their way to a comfortable lead after Orlando Henderson capped a 10-play, 66-yard drive with a two-yard dive into the endzone that put BRHS up 23-7 with 8:01 left in the third.
However, the Volunteers refused to go quietly. After both teams traded stalled drives, Central-Clay was able to answer early in the fourth quarter. After Lyles found J.T. Burns on a 50-yard pitch and catch to move the Vols into scoring position, Lyles later converted a fourth down when he was able to hook up with Burns again after avoiding pressure and running almost sideline to sideline to avoid pressure.
Lyles hit Burns from five yards out for the score, and he found Damion Ford for the two-point conversion, making the game 23-15 with 8:33 left in the contest
“I thought in the first half, we played pretty good outside of two turnovers. But we gave up too many big plays, and I was disappointed in that,” Horn said. “We stopped the run pretty much all night long. When we missed all of those opportunities, I felt like it would come back to haunt us. Thankfully, it didn’t.”
The game opened up with a safety, as a high snap went over the head of the Vols punter, who swiped the ball out of the endzone to give BRHS a 2-0 lead just 1:47 into the night.
After both teams swapped possessions, Tyre Gray hit Sy Stowes on a short route where Stowes made one man miss and hauled it down the sideline for a 60-yard score. The extra point gave BRHS a 9-0 lead midway through the first.
The Volunteers were given some life later in the first, when Tyler Smith stepped in front of a Gray pass and picked it off. His return set up Central-Clay at BRHS’23-yard line.
Lyles floated one out to a wide open Jo Jo Staples two plays later to cut the deficit to two.
From there, the defenses slugged it out until late in the first quarter, when Gray led a nine-play, 88-yard drive that culminated in a 48-yard touchdown dash by the Wildcats’ signal caller during an quarterback option keeper.
“Tyre made some good reads on the option. I don’t know how many times we threw it tonight, but it was probably too many,” Horn said. “We’re going to do what we do. I don’t care how many we throw or run, we’re out here to win. Tyre made some good decisions tonight, and we just need to keep working with him.”
From there, the Wildcats were able to keep the Vols and their electric quarterback under wraps.
“He’s a very elusive player, and it’s hard to hem him up,” Horn said of Lyles. “I felt we did a good job with our rush. We did a pretty good job of containing him.”
Now 2-0, BRHS heads into Friday with a showdown against ival Opelika in what will be both sides’ region opener. The Class 6A No. 5 Bulldogs defeated Class 7A No. 10 Auburn 20-17.
Horn said there is still a way for the team to go, but the Wildcats expect to be ready for the challenge.
“Obviously we’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’re going to keep working and see what happens,” he said.
Gray was 2-for-6 for 75 yards through the air. On the ground, he ran for 97 yards on eight carries.
Chase Burton ran for 99 yards on 24 carries.