Pierce County Middle School’s Jah Evans rushed for three touchdowns and added a two-point conversion in the Bears’ 26-8 home win over visiting Brantley County Middle School in 8th-grade action.
The PCMS athletic department paid tribute at halftime to coach Jamie Morris, who passed away from COVID.
“Brantley Middle was more than patient in allowing us to do this,” said head coach Shannon Batten. “I would like to say thanks to their staff for the opportunity to do this. We lost a coach, co-worker, friend and father.
“It’s was a tough week having to deal with that and practicing was hard as you can imagine. We, as a football program, put JM on the players’ helmets. We had balloons in FSU colors, which was his favorite college team, released with his wife and children to celebrate his life.”
The Bears (2-0) who opened the season with a 12-6 win at Appling County Middle School a week earlier, pulled away from a 6-0 halftime lead Wednesday, September 8 in its first game on the newly installed turf at Bears Stadium.
“It was cool and super to play on the new turf,” Battend added. “The players thought they made the big time.”
Pierce Middle took advantage of the first of three mistakes by the Herons. A Brantley Middle player touched a live ball on a punt inside the 10 with the Bears making the recovery. Evans, who rushed for a game-high 144 yards on nine carries, scored two plays later bulling his way in from three yards out. The pass for the two-point conversion fell incomplete.
“We were missing several offensive linemen out with sickness, COVID or injured,” Batten said. “Brantley’s defensive line was big and that caused us problems in the first half. We (coaches) made some adjustments at halftime and it helped in the second half.”
PCMS was unable to capitalize on a fumble recovery of the ensuing kick off turning the ball over on downs. The Bears also did not take advantage of Nigel Brown’s 33-yard interception return on Brantley Middle’s next offensive possession midway through the second period.
Brown’s 58-yard return of the second half kickoff put Pierce Middle in front 12-0 with the Herons stuffing the two-point conversion.
Brantley Middle’s first scoring chance came after the Bears muffed a snap in punt formation midway through the third quarter.
The Herons lost four yards in the four-play series that started at the PCMS 10 turning the ball over on downs with an incomplete pass into the endzone.
“Defensively, we played well,” said Batten. “We did a good job with open field tackling. We were in position to make some good plays.”
Three plays later, Evans broke off a 74-yard run inside of one minute to play in the quarter extending the margin to 18-0.
Brantley Middle would answer, though, with a seven-play, 60-yard scoring drive capped by Mason Kicklighter’s (six carries, 44 yards) three-yard run.
Hayden Hickox connected with Bob Jones for a 19-yard gain on a third-and-13 to keep the drive alive. Kicklighter followed one snap later with a 28-yard burst moving the sticks to the PCMS 16.
Kicklighter would do the honors three plays later. He added the two-point conversion cutting the deficit to 18-8.
The Bears recovered the onside kick attempt of BCMS at midfield. Evans cut off right tackle for a 50-yard scoring jaunt on the first snap pushing the lead to 24-8. He added the two-point conversion to finsh off the scoring.
“We have to keep improving and not become satisfied with mediocrity,” stated Batten. “I would also like to say thanks to the community for coming out and supporting us in the first home game of the year.”
PCMS is scheduled to host Arthur Williams today (Wednesday, September 15) at 5 p.m.