After trailing for most of the game, the Briarwood Academy Buccaneers scored the winning touchdown with just 44.5 seconds remaining and defeated Thomas Jefferson Academy 27-23. Both teams entered the field undefeated Friday night, but now Thomas Jefferson falls to 5-1 and the Bucs are 7-0.
“Thomas Jefferson gave us all we wanted and more. They were the most physical team, I feel like, we have played so far. They had a really good game plan and they executed their game plan,” said Bo Fleming, Briarwood Academy head coach. “We just found a way at the end to win. Our backs were against the wall and our guys made the stop and then offensively we were able to drive down and punch it in.”
As the game moved into the later portion of the fourth quarter, Thomas Jefferson was leading 23-20 and threatening to score again. The Jaguars had held the Bucs’ offense, forced Briarwood to punt, and took possession on Briarwood’s 37-yard line. One play later the Jags had first and goal.
However, the Briarwood defense held on three consecutive plays and left Thomas Jefferson facing fourth-and-goal on the 8-yard line. A touchdown likely would have clinched a win for the Jaguars.
The quarterback rolled right and threw toward the end zone, but Briarwood’s Lucas Freitas picked off the pass in the end zone.
“I knew Coach Barnett had us prepared and we expected what they were going to throw at us and Lucas made a big play. All I was thinking in my mind was I’ve got to find a way to go score if we make the stop,” said Fleming.
The interception gave Briarwood the ball on their 20 to start their game-winning drive with only 2:53 left in the game and two time outs.
The Bucs began their march down the field and mostly kept the ball on the ground, but worked the sidelines on the short side of the field to stop the clock. With the clock ticking below a minute and nine plays into the drive, quarterback Dax Reese broke free, reversed direction and picked his way through the remaining TJ defenders, and beat one final tackle attempt at the goal line as he dove in right at the corner marker.
“We were able to use the sideline and get all the way up to around midfield and then Dax (Reese) made another run, then he made a run for the ages with that 35-yard touchdown run,” said Fleming. “I’ve coached a lot of Reeses but I can’t remember a run that was better than that one.”
“He made about four TJ guys miss and then stiff armed one on the other sideline. It was a heck of a run and will be on a highlight reel for a long time.”
With just over 44 seconds, the Bucs were finally in the lead 26-23. With the point after kick, they were up 27-23.
Thomas Jefferson had one final shot at moving the ball and scoring, but did not succeed.
Briarwood opened by taking the lead when the Bucs scored on the first drive of the night. Reese carried for a 1-yard touchdown. A two-point running attempt came up short, leaving Briarwood with a 6-0 advantage. However, on the following Thomas Jefferson possession the Jaguars found the end zone and converted for two to take an 8-6 lead over the Bucs. Briarwood soon countered when Reese scored on a 27-yard run and Freitas carried for a two-point conversion. When the first quarter wrapped up, the Bucs held a 14-8 lead.
But, the Jaguars punched the ball steadily down the field to score on a 5-yard touchdown run near the midpoint of the second quarter. With the kick for the extra point they held a 15-14 lead over Briarwood.
The Briarwood squad was fired up when they came out of the half and buckled down, allowed just one first down, then forced the Jaguars to punt. Briarwood’s offense soon lost momentum when Freitas fumbled. Thomas Jefferson capitalized on the turnover and drove 44 yards to score right before the end of the third quarter.
When the final quarter began, the Bucs trailed 23-14. But, one play into the final quarter Reese reached the end zone again on a short-yardage run. The Bucs went to the air for the two-point attempt, which failed – putting the score at 23-20 and seemingly Briarwood running out of time if they could not hold TJ. But, the Bucs took care of business and earned the win.
Reese and Freitas led the Briarwood offense on the ground with 118 and 129 yards respectively. Reese was four of nine in passing for 21 yards.
Evan Moore led the Bucs in tackles with 17 total, five solo. Scott Reynolds followed with 13 total tackles. Tucker Purvis recorded 11 tackles and Thomas Wilkerson 10.
This Friday, Briarwood will host 0-7 Memorial Day, of Savannah.
“They are about the best 0-7 teams I have ever seen,” said Fleming. “They’ve got athletes like they have had in the past. They’ve got a new coach and their trying to get on the same page.”