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Tale of two halves

The first and second halves of Brantley's contest with Highland Home last Friday looked like night and day.

The fourth-ranked, Class 1A Bulldogs (4-0, 2-0) finished the first half with only 207 total yards including a mere 124 yards on the ground, which has been the team's strength all season. The Class 2A Flying Squadron (1-4, 1-1), on the other hand, had 240 total yards in the half including a stellar 188 yards through the air.

At the break, the Bulldogs were trailing 20-17.

Brantley chalked up 267 yards in the second half with a 204-yard performance on the ground and 63 yards passing. Highland Home was held to 81 yards as the Bulldogs turned it up a notch on both sides of the ball to claim a 39-20 win.

"We made a few adjustment at halftime," Brantley Head Coach David Lowery said. "I thought we had to do a couple of things different on defense. I thought we really got off to a good start on offense in the second half too. So any time you can put points on the board, it's a lot easier to play defense."

Brantley's senior running back Devaris Skanes led all backs with 151 yards on 20 carries,

three touchdowns and a two-point conversion despite only having 37 yards and one score in the first half.

The Bulldogs' sophomore back Chris Booker finished the night with 140 yards on the ground and two touchdowns.

"I think that they just decided that they were going to take control of the game," Highland Home Head Coach Bob Farrior said. "They've got two of the finest running backs in the state, they're an extremely well coached football team and they've got a great kicking game. They haven't just done it to us, they've done it to everybody they've played. We thought we had a chance, but the other 24 minutes wasn't too kind to us."

The Flying Squadron's freshman quarterback Deymond Sankey threw for 240 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a two-point conversion. The Bulldogs' junior quarterback Edgar Walker passed for 146 yards.

Lowery said the quick pace of the game was to blame for his team's performance in the first half.

"I think it was a little bit different pace of the game than what we've been playing and we had to get adjusted to it," he said. "It took us a half to do, but I thought our players hung in there and we played really well in the second half. They're a throwing football team, will spread you out and do a lot of inside traps. They hurt us with that and kept the football from a good bit with their offense."

In less than a minute, Highland Home took the lead over Brantley when Sankey connected with senior receiver Tony Merriweather for a 63-yard pass on the second play from scrimmage. The two-point conversion failed making it 6-0 in the home team's favor.

The Bulldogs answered back on their first drive of the game when Booker danced his way in from 22 yards out. Sophomore kicker Marcus Owens' kick sailed wide right tying the game 6-6.

Brantley's defense was able to hold Highland Home on the next drive allowing its offense the chance to gain the lead. The Bulldogs' offense capitalized on the opportunity as Skanes bulled his way in from the 4-yard-line to cap off a seven-play, 79-yard drive. Skanes added the two-point conversion to take a 14-6 lead.

Three plays later, Sankey hooked up with eighth grader Derrick Dulaney on a 79-yard touchdown strike. The two-point conversion failed giving the home team a 14-12 advantage heading into the second stanza.

Brantley stalled on its first two drives of the second quarter and on the sixth play of Highland Home's second series, Lance Myers picked off Sankey's pass ending a scoring threat.

On the very next play, Skanes fumbled the ball and junior Will Pouncey pounced on the pigskin in the end zone for a Squadron score. Sankey's reached into the end zone for the two-point conversion to give Highland Home a 20-14 advantage.

The Bulldogs were stopped in their tracks on their ensuing drive and had to settle for an Owens 32-yard field goal.

Brantley came out with new life in the second half scoring on the third play of the opening drive when Skanes galloped 40 yards for the score. Owens' PAT gave the visitors a 24-20 lead.

The Bulldogs went on to score on a Skanes 12-yard run, a Booker 11-yard sprint and a safety by Skanes and Corey Latham after teaming up to sack Sankey in the end zone. Owens was true on both of his extra point kicks.

"They just came right at us," Farrior said. "They run the inside sweep and they run the outside sweep. They keep you mixed up. You don't know if they're running inside or outside. They did a good job of call plays."

Brantley will play host to Kinston in a Class 1A, Region 2 contest Friday night. Highland Home will travel to take on Class 2A, Region 3 foe Lanett. Kickoff for both games is scheduled for 7 p.m.