Jermaine Brewton and D.J. Bell combined for 223 rushing yards and six touchdowns helping sixth-ranked Pierce County roll to a record-setting 59-14 win over visiting Burke County in the Class AAA playoff opener.
The Region 1 champion Bears (9-1) scored on six of their seven first-half possessions and nine of 11 overall — eight touchdowns and a field goal — in setting a playoff record for points scored and tying the record for margin of defeat against the Region 4 fourth seed.
PCHS entertains Region 2 third-seed Central-Macon (6-3) this week. The Chargers advanced with a 14-6 win at Region 3 runner up Liberty County. The Bears and Central-Macon met in the first round of last year’s playoffs with Pierce County winning 49-6.
Pierce County scored on its first play from scrimmage Friday night setting the stage for the rout. The Bears also scored on their fifth, sixth and seventh snaps for a 28-point first quarter fueling the first round rout.
All four touchdowns came on runs, three designed and the other off a scramble on a pass play. The scores, two each by quarterback Brewton and Bell, totaled 184 yards — 75 and 44 by Brewton and 25 and 40 by Bell.
On the designed runs, Brewton and Bell had nothing to stop them but the goal line once they broke the line of scrimmage.
The early scores were only a small portion of Pierce County’s plays that went for big yardage. The Bears totaled 364 yards on 20 snaps in the first half.
PCHS had six runs and six passes of 15 yards or longer on the night finishing with 228 yards rushing and 260 passing (488 total) on only 40 plays, an average of 12.2 yards per play.
“That was pretty weird,” Pierce County head coach Ryan Herring said of the lightning-quick start. “You don’t see that often for sure. We knew they liked zero coverage, straight man (on receivers). That left nobody in the middle of the field. We knew if we broke (run) out of the box, it was gone.
“That’s what happened on those first couple of runs. Nobody was there (in secondary).”
PCHS had the ball for a total of 1:45 in the opening stanza (17:59 total) in racing out to the 21-point advantage. The Bears had their quick start after stopping the visitors on downs at the Pierce County 25 on the opening possession.
Brewton (six carries, 122 yards) went 75 yards down the sideline in front of the Burke County bench on PCHS’s initial snap starting a 35-point explosion. Robert Jacobs’ PAT, the first of eight on the night, came with 6:27 left in the opening period.
The visitors answered quickly moving 80 yards in the three plays with Jordan Franklin scoring on a 12-yard run and Jacob Hickman kicking the PAT tying the score at 7-all just 43 seconds later.
Burke County racked up 136 of its 298 total yards on its first two possessions and finished the first half with 220 yards of offense.
“We didn’t play well at times on defense, but it was good enough to win,” Herring said. “We weren’t real clean on the running game, but we knew all week some of the things they did with formations, getting people from side to side could be a nightmare.
“And that line is so big. You have 320-pound guys leaning on you, that’s a lot of mass in there to run powers and counters behind. We had some problems early, but got it worked out.”
Brewton, flushed out of the pocket, sprinted 44 yards three plays later and Pierce County never looked back in taking the lead for good at 14-7 with 4:25 on the first quarter clock.
Daytin Baker’s interception and 20-yard return on Burke County’s next possession set PCHS up at the visitors’ 25. Bell (10 carries, 101 yards) scored on the ensuing snap for a 21-7 advantage with 2:27 to play in the period.
A partially blocked punt by Zay Plummer traveled 11 yards setting up Bell’s 40-yard run up the gut just 13.6 seconds before the horn sounded for a commanding 28-7 lead.
“They used a double slot protection,” Herring said. “We overloaded one side to try to get their protector to shade that way and Zay went right through middle. He maybe should’ve blocked another one.”
Pierce County’s only empty possession of the half came on the fifth offensive series after stalling at the Burke County 20. Jacobs’ 37-yard field goal attempt was pulled left of the upright.
The sixth possession went 62 yards and was kick-started by a 45-yard pass from Brewton (13-of-21, 260 yards) to his brother, T’Votny Brewton. Bell, operating out of the “wildcat” scored his third touchdown of the half four plays later on a one-yard run for a 35-7 lead with 3:12 on the clock.
For the quarterback Brewton, the 45-yard completion was one of six covering 15 yards or more. He also distributed the ball around connecting with eight receivers.
“(Burke) gave us some things back there (in secondary) and we hit some throws,” Herring said.
The Bears added one more score on the last play of the first half when Jacobs drilled a 32-yard field goal for a 38-7 lead at the break.
Burke County opened the second half recovering a “sky” kick at the PCHS 29. Quarterback Marshall Flowers scored six plays later on a 12-yard run on third-and-four. Hickman’s PAT sliced the deficit to 38-14 with 9:39 remaining in the period.
Pierce County answered when Brewton darted 15 yards off right tackle with a keeper with 7:06 left in the period to cap a six-play, 66-yard drive for a 45-14 lead.
Plummer’s second deflection of a punt, one that lost four yards, set the Bears up at the Burke County 20. Brewton hit Maleek Chandel on the next snap pushing the margin to 52-14 with 2:48 to play in the third quarter.
L.J. Newton capped Pierce County’s scoring bonanza with a 30-yard burst with 2:05 remaining during a “mercy rule” fourth quarter.
“You can’t go to round two if you don’t win round one,” Herring said. “The most important thing is we’re moving on.”