Briarwood Academy’s Dax Reese blasts his way through the middle of the Thomas Jefferson Academy defense.

Late in the game and leading 7-6, the Briarwood Academy Buccaneers picked off two Thomas Jefferson Academy passes to take back possession and secure a region win. The Bucs are now 2-0 in region play and head into their final region game this Friday.

“Defense really played well and they hung on for us. Offensively we’ve just got to keep working and cut down on the penalties,” said Bo Fleming, Briarwood Academy head coach. “It was a great night for us. We put ourselves in the driver’s seat for the region championship, just got to go to Waynesboro this week and take care of business.”

Early in the night, the first quarter remained scoreless. Thomas Jefferson, however,  moved deep into Briarwood territory and threatened to score.

Backed up against their goal line, the Bucs held. A toss sweep to the left was shut down by the Briarwood defense as Lucas Freitas dropped the back for a loss at the 9 yard line on fourth down.

“Lucas, he really stepped up and played well for us on defense Friday night. He’s just an athlete and we put him in a lot of different spots. Wherever we’ve put him, he’s really made plays for us,” said Fleming.

After taking over on downs, Briarwood drove 91 yards in 11 plays. Dax Reese finally broke through the middle of the TJ defense and ran over several defenders at the 2 yard line as he found his way into the end zone.

That would turn out to be Briarwood’s only touchdown of the night. Trenton Cotton’s extra point kick was good and that sole point later would make the difference in the game.

“Jacob Petrie, it really goes out to him. It was a high snap and he got the ball down perfect. Jacob does a really good job holding for us and Trenton make the PAT, which ended up being the deciding factor in the game,” Fleming said.

Thomas Jefferson retaliated on their next possession with an 11-play scoring drive. The extra point snap was bad, as was the kick.

With 9:28 remaining in the second quarter, Briarwood had a 7-6 lead which would last until the final horn.

As the two teams continued to battle into the second half and eventually the fourth quarter, the Bucs missed an opportunity to pin the Jaguars down deep on a punt. Two Bucs missed the opportunity to down the ball around the 2 and it rolled into the end zone, giving TJ far better field position at the 20.

On first down, and with 4:40 left in the fame, the Jaguars went to the air. Briarwood’s Tucker Purvis snagged the ball and returned the interception into Thomas Jefferson territory around the 45.

Still leading by just a point, Briarwood marched toward the end zone. Reese broke a big play, hurdled a Jaguar defender, and carried the ball the 8 yard line. But, the Bucs were flagged for unsportsmanlike  conduct. Eventually facing fourth-and-goal from the 14, Briarwood went to the air and the pass was intercepted in the end zone.

Briarwood’s Scott Reynolds dialed in on the TJ defensive back on the return and dropped him at the 7 yard line.

With a little more than a minute remaining, the Jaguars seemingly might still have time to go the distance and score.

Again on first down, they threw the ball. But, Briarwood’s Jacob Petrie intercepted to regain possession for the Bucs. With that, all they needed was a snap or two and the clock expired.

“Purvis and Petrie made some really good plays,” said Fleming. “Our guys made plays when it counted.”

Special teams at times have been a weak point this year for the Bucs, however Fleming was pleased in particular with the punting game against Thomas Jefferson. Tucker Lord took the snaps and booted the ball with success.

“He was big for us Friday night. I was really proud of Tucker. In the second half we won the field position battle, which was huge for us, and that was all due to his punts,” explained Fleming.

Lord punted four times and averaged 36.3 yards per punt.

Reese led the Bucs in rushing with 31 carries and 149 yards. Purvis followed with 44 yards total from three carries. The Bucs only had 28 yards in passing with two completions apiece by Reese and Branson Beggs.

On the defensive side of the ball, senior Scott Reynolds had 12 total tackles, 5 solo. Freitas also reached double digits with 11 total and 8 solo.

The 5-3-1 Bucs will take a 2-0 region record on the road this Friday to Waynesboro as they face the 4-6 Edmund Burke Academy Spartans. EBA is 1-1 in region action and Briarwood can capture the region championship with a win.

Two trophies are on the line — the Backyard Battle trophy and the GISA Region 4AA trophy.

“We want to bring the trophies back to Briarwood,” said Fleming.

He said the Spartans have battled injuries all year but know they could still possibly have a shot at a region title if they defeat the Bucs and the championship is decided on points.

“They’ve got a group of seniors over there that are very athletic. They’ve got a good quarterback. It’s a rivalry game so they’ll be up for us Friday night,” Fleming said.

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