Pay Back

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 3, 2004

What goes around comes around.

Last Friday night, the third-ranked Brantley Bulldogs (13-0) returned last year's one-point elimination favor to undefeated American Christian Academy as they edged the Patriots 17-16 in the Class 1A quarterfinals in Tuscaloosa.

Senior defensive back Lance Myers, who along with senior Zach Kilcrease made several pass breakups late in the game to assure ACA star quarterback Chris Smelley didn't complete a long pass to regain the lead, was ecstatic following the win.

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"I'm feeling great," Myers said. "We got them back."

Kilcrease, on the other hand, was looking forward to this year's three-hour trip home in comparison to the rough trip last year.

"It feels great, it will be a great ride home," he said. "We came here last year and had a tough ride home, but tonight it's going to be a great one."

Brantley led the game 10-7 at the half, but American Christian punched in for a touchdown and kicked a field goal in the third quarter to go up 16-10, but senior running back Devaris Skanes raced 62 yards up the middle on the final play of the quarter to tie the game 16-16. Sophomore place kicker Marcus Owens' point after kick gave the visitor's a 17-16 lead.

The Bulldogs' defense made some adjustments and played strong in the fourth quarter to help Brantley hang on to the victory.

"I thought our players just laid it out on the line tonight," Brantley Head Coach David Lowery said amid a swarm of celebrating players and fans at midfield. "We knew they had a lot of depth, but our players just hung in there and played hard for four quarters and it paid off in the end."

The Patriots threw several Hail Mary passes on their final three possessions of the game, but were unable to connect for big yardage. Smelley did however complete several sideline routs for first downs and to stop the clock. Myers and Kilcrease were there to swat away the deep pass that could have ended Brantley season.

"I was just staying at home," Myers said. "The quarterback kept running around, buying time I reckon, but our linemen got to him and made him throw it away. It was a long throw, so we had time to get up under it. We were playing five deep, so we had the coverage back there."

Kilcrease said it was his never-quit attitude that helped him make the game-saving play.

"I knew I was tired and Lance did a great job with me to get back there," he said. "I told him that we were not going to stop or quit. We made a good play."

Lowery said the play of his secondary and defensive front were key in the Bulldogs' win.

"We were lucky I guess in a lot of ways, but our players played hard and when you play hard sometimes you get lucky," he said. "I can't say enough about our defense. We've played on our heels a lot lately and our defense just keeps coming up and making plays. I can't say enough about what they've done on defense."

As for the adjustments in the fourth quarter, Lowery said he just mixed it up a bit.

"We changed a few things," Lowery explained. "We were bringing people from different ways. We knew we couldn't do the same things the whole game. We kind of used one game plan to start with and then we brought a different game plan in late in the fourth quarter and I think it threw them off track a little bit."

The Bulldogs took an early 3-0 lead following a 27-yard field goal by Owens in the first quarter. The Patriots bounced back in the second quarter on a two-yard run by Jordan Hastings to go up 7-3.

Brantley reclaimed the lead later in the second quarter after the Bulldogs' defensive unit forced ACA to punt and senior Antwuan Foster returned it 46 yards for the score thanks in part to a huge block by Myers.

"I anticipated a close game," Hooks said following the game. "Anytime you get two 12-0 football teams together that are familiar with each other you're going to have that type of game."

Hooks said each time the Patriots made up some ground, penalties and other mental mistakes cost them.

"It seemed like every time we were getting close, something would happen to back us up," Hooks said.

An unsportsman-like conduct penalty following a big reception with just over a minute to play in the game was one of the biggest penalty flags thrown throughout the contest.

"That was huge," Hooks said.

Skanes finished the night with 159 yards rushing on 20 carries and scored one touchdown. Foster and sophomore Jon Tyson led the defense with one interception each in the first half. Owens recovered a fumble in the first half.

The Bulldogs will travel to Sweet Water Friday night to take on the Bulldogs (11-2) in the semi-finals. Sweet Water defeated previously undefeated Loachapoka 35-7 last week.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.