Eighth-ranked Pierce County scored seven touchdowns in the opening 15:30 of the first half en route to a 49-7 opening Region 1-AAA win here Friday over Brantley County.
Senior quarterback Jermaine Brewton accounted for four touchdowns (two rushing, two passing) and senior running back L.J. Newton (seven carries, season-high 136 yards) scored twice before head coach Ryan Herring pulled his starters with 8:30 to play in the first half with a 49-0 advantage.
The Bears (5-1 overall, 1-0 region) scored on each of their first six offensive possessions piling up 343 yards on 21 snaps before turning the game over to the jayvee unit for the final 32-plus minutes of the night.
“We wanted to score quick and force a lot of three and outs,” said Herring. “It wasn’t a real clean game for us, but we got the job done.”
Defensively, PCHS limited the Herons (0-7, 0-1) to just one yard of total offense in the first half. For the night, the Bears recorded 10 stops behind the line of scrimmage (37 yards lost) including six quarterback sacks (minus-27 yards).
“We repped everything they (Bears) were going to do and when the game starts we can’t get aligned,” said Brantley County head coach Geoff Cannon. “The guys are trying hard and giving great effort, but when someone does something differently than what we practiced all week what do you do?
“We accomplished our goals of not giving up a kick return or punt return for a score. We did, though, throw another pick six.”
Pierce County non-region game with Florida Class A Power Madison County (7-1), the three-time defending state champion, was canceled Monday morning by the visitors (see related story).
Brantley County travels to winless Long County (0-7, 0-1), a 69-12 victim of then sixth-ranked Appling County. The Herons-Blue Tide winner has the inside track for one of two remaining state playoff berths in the region behind the Pirates and Bears.
“Everything is right in front of us to reach the playoffs,” said Cannon. “We’ve got to go and take care of business Friday night. When we come out ready to play we have a good night and that’s what I’m hoping for against Long County.”
Pierce County’s opening seven-play drive covering 90 yards in 2:09 was its longest in number of plays and time of possession on the night. All total, the Bears’ first six possessions netted 343 yards on 21 snaps eating up just 7:31 off the clock.
Pierce County stormed out to a 35-0 first quarter lead setting a school record for most points in the opening stanza. The 49-0 halftime bulge also set the school mark for most points in the first half.
PCHS had five plays of 13 yards or longer on the opening possession that ended with a Brewton (8-of-10, 149 yards) 14-yard scoring strike to Maleek Chandel (four receptions, 79 yards), the first of two scores for the duo. Robert Jacobs added the first of his six PATs on the night for a 7-0 lead at the 9:51 mark.
The Bears’ defense scored when Daytin Baker stepped in front of a Ty’won Walker (8-of-21, 89 yards, two interceptions) pass on Brantley County’s third play of the night returning it 20 yards for a score and a 14-0 lead with 8:52 on the first quarter clock.
The pick 6 was the fifth of the year against the Herons’ offense.
A three-and-out (five total in 11 possessions) by Brantley County was followed by a 91-yard Newton bolt, who was filling in for leading rusher D.J. Bell, on a 2nd-and-10 with 6:28 remaining extending the lead to 21-0.
The 100-yard rushing night was the fourth of Newton’s career and the first since October 25 of last season in a Game 8 49-0 win over Tattnall County. Newton, last year’s leading rusher at 942 yards, had just 62 yards this season spending most of his time on the defensive side of the ball as Bell emerged.
Pierce County’s next possession was a four-play, 63-yard drive in 1:09 with Newton scooting the final eight yards upping the margin to 28-0 with 4:08 to play in the first quarter.
The Bears tacked on a fifth score on their final possession of the opening period. Brewton’s 21-yard scamper with 1:40 on the clock capped a three-play, 46-yard possession for a 35-0 advantage.
PCHS opened the second quarter with a two-play, 36-yard score on the legs of Brewton as the lead swelled to 42-0 just 40 seconds in.
The Bears capped their scoring blitz on the next possession, which followed a fumble recovery by Knox Bennett at the Brantley County 26. The combination of Brewton to Chandel hooked up for an 11-yard scoring toss with 8:30 left in the half ending the night for all PCHS starters. Jonah Allen connected on the PAT.
Brantley County, which had zero total yards through its first nine possessions before finishing with 104, took advantage of the Bears’ lone miscue of the night late in the third quarter.
Benji O’Neal stepped in front of an errant Carson Sloan pass returning the ball eight yards to the PCHS 30. It was the first time the Herons had been across midfield all game.
Walker hit wide out Quinton Walker (five catches, 75 yards) for 12 yards on first down with the pair connecting on a 17-yard scoring strike two plays later. Diego Martinez split the uprights with 4:52 on the third quarter clock bringing the score to its final margin of 49-7.
There would be two more possessions, one by each team, with a running clock. The Herons’ final drive moved the ball from their own 17 to the PCHS 13 ending when Pierce County’s Jaquez White pulled in an errant pass at the Bears’ two returning 25 yards.