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Bulldogs earn trip to second round

A 35-12 victory over A.L. Johnson was a great start to postseason play for the Brantley Bulldogs.

But for Brantley head football coach Ashley Kilcrease, the best part was how quickly the Bulldogs accomplished it.

“We’ve been a second-half team all year, and I was afraid that was going to get us if we didn’t fix that,” Kilcrease said.

“We scored 35 in first half, and we scored on the first offensive play.  We caused a turnover on the first defensive possession.  We were up 35-0 in the first half, and we were just trying not to get anybody hurt in the second half and get out of there alive.”

The early lead also led to some valuable playoff experience for the Bulldogs’ younger players.

One of the difficult, if not impossible, things to prepare for is playing on the road in a hostile environment, and Friday’s away game should prove more hostile than most.

The Bulldogs’ opponent, the Verbena Red Devils, hasn’t hosted a playoff game in 17 years.

But the painful lessons of the 2014 postseason, and a disappointing road loss in third round, all but guarantee that the Bulldogs won’t be doomed to repeating history.

“I’ve already told our kids that it’s going to be a great atmosphere and they’re going to have a great home field advantage,” Kilcrease said. “We’ve had to learn this year—and last year, when we lost a game on the road in the third round that we felt like we should’ve won.

“A lot of it had to do with the fact that we were not mentally prepared.  We had a lot of turnovers that night and a bunch of penalties.  We’ve got to have ourselves right on the road to have a chance to win, and I think we’ll do that.”

In addition to mental preparation, Brantley is also preparing to contend with a talented Verbena quarterback, Tristan Short, and his favorite target, the 6-foot-4 wide receiver Juwan Tyus.

“And they spread you out with that guy. And as soon as you worry about him, they’ll run the football inside,” Kilcrease said.  “They’re a big-play team.  We watched them Friday and they scored three touchdowns on three big plays for 50 yards or more.  So we’ve got to stop the big play.  We’ve got to make them drive the length of the field.

“And offensively, we just need to be balanced in being able to both throw it and run it.  That’s something we’ve been able to do for the past few weeks, and when you can do that you can be effective on offense.  You just have to execute.  If we execute, we’ll have a good shot.”

The Bulldogs travel to Verbena Friday, and kickoff is set for 7 p.m.