Although a week behind, the Alabama High School Athletic Association's state quarterfinals are finally here.
Thanks in part to a couple of gambles by the coaching staff, the third-ranked Brantley Bulldogs are one of eight teams remaining in the Class 1A bracket of state playoffs
following a 27-7 home win over Reeltown in the second round last Friday night.
"We thought we had to take some chances to try to make some plays," Brantley Head Coach David Lowery said. "When you get into playoffs situations you have to go for it and be a little aggressive at times to try to get the win. I thought that's what we needed to do."
Brantley jumped out to an early 7-0 lead after scoring on its third possession of the game. Senior running back Devaris Skanes capped off a six-play, 39-yard drive by scoring on a 15-yard run on a fourth-and-one play.
The score was setup by senior linebacker Lance Myers, who pounced on a Reeltown fumble, to give the home team ideal field position.
The Rebels answered back five plays later on a 43-yard touchdown run to open the second half. The extra point tied the game 7-7.
The next 10 minutes proved to be a defensive struggle between the Bulldogs and the Rebels, which was highlighted by a goal line stand by Brantley's defense at the one-yard line.
With 1:21 remaining in the first half, Brantley's coaching staff dug into its bag of tricks, which resulted in the Bulldogs' second score of the night. Junior quarterback Edgar Walker connected with senior receiver Antwaun Foster on a 38-yard pass for the score. Sophomore place kicker Marcus Owens' point after kick gave the host a 14-7 lead at halftime.
Brantley's defense settled down in the second half and held the Rebels' offense out of the end zone. Offensively, Foster hauled in another touchdown catch and Skanes scooted into the end zone on another run.
"I thought our defense played real well," Lowery said. "We had a couple of busted plays on the drive that they did score in, but overall I thought our defense played real good. I thought the goal line stand in first half was probably one of the turning points in the game."
Skanes led Brantley's offense with just over 100 yards and two touchdowns. Walker chalked up 87 yards and threw for two scores. Myers and sophomore nose guard Corey Latham led the Bulldogs' defense with nine tackles each.
Brantley will travel to Tuscaloosa Friday night to take on fourth-ranked and undefeated American Christian Academy (12-0) in a quarterfinals rematch from last season. The Patriots edged the Bulldogs by one point last year, 28-27.
Lowery believes this year's contest will be another good one.
"They've got a tremendous passing game, something we don't see a lot of," he said. "They've got one of the top-rated quarterbacks in the state. They throw it and spread it out quite a bit, and if they need to run it, they've got big linemen up front. They can hurt you in a lot of ways on offense."
ACA quarterback Chris Smelley, 6-foot-3, 203 pounds, has over 2,300 yards passing and over 30 touchdowns this season. He has only been picked off three times.
Although this is the first road game for the Bulldogs this postseason, Lowery doesn't believe it will play a factor in the game.
"I don't think it will be a problem," he said. "We went there last year, so we kind of know the layout and the situation. I don't think it will be that big a deal."
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.