By Kevin Price
For GCS Athletics
Glynn Academy will be at home and Brunswick High will be on the road, but for the Red Terrors and Pirates the goal will be the same Friday night in the opening round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs.
Both local squads will be playing for region and school pride as they hope to advance to the second week of the state playoffs with first-round victories.
As Region 2 meets Region 4 in first-round games on Friday, the Terrors will host Tucker at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Glynn County Stadium while the Pirates will travel to face Morrow at Tara Stadium in Jonesboro. Kickoff for that game is also scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Here in Brunswick, Glynn will take on a program that is used to winning at this time of year. Tucker has been to the state playoffs every year since 2006 and normally the Tigers play mutliple games, having gone as far as the state championship game four different times while winning state crowns in both 2008 and 2011.
Last year was the first time that the Tigers had not won at least one playoff game during their impressive streak. GA head coach Rocky Hidalgo compared drawing Tucker in the opening round to winning the lottery and later getting a letter in the mail informing you of the taxes you owe the government as a result.
“They’ve got really talented kids,” said the GA coach. “They’ve got good skill kids, receivers who can go get it. They don’t give up big plays. All the kids in the back eight (on defense) look like linebackers. They can run, they come downhill and knock the heck out of you.”
The Tigers (6-4) did take their lumps this year, however. They got upset in region play by Morrow which defeated them 19-14 in mid-October and lost 13-7 last Friday to Stephenson in a defensive struggle that decided the region winner. Because the Tigers lost to the Mustangs earlier, they were relegated to the No. 3 seed for the playoffs with their two league losses.
Tucker also opened its season with back-to-back losses to Class AAAAAAA heavyweights Archer and Grayson, falling by scores of 41-7 and 37-14, respectively.
“They’re a lot like us. They want to play good defense and run the football,” Hidalgo said.
One player to watch for the Tigers is senior wide receiver Isaiah Duncan. The 6-foot-2, 180-pounder is committed to Florida State. He will likely play defensive back for the Seminoles and is currently ranked as the 30th best player in the state by 247Sports. He is also a dangerous return man for the Tigers.
“They’ve got a lot of kids that can run around,” Hidalgo said.
Glynn (5-4) has certainly had its struggles this season, especially on the defensive side of the ball. But, the Terrors’ stop-em unit played its best game of the season last week against Bradwell Institute as the Terrors rolled to their third straight win to finish the season and assured them the region’s No. 2 seed for the playoffs.
The Terrors will likely attempt to overpower the Tigers and run the ball between the tackles with quarterback TJ Lewis and running backs Nolan Grant and Caden Hutchinson. Grant left last week’s game in the first half with an injured shoulder but is expected to play on Friday.
Glynn also has gotten freshman speedster Jaden Drayton more involved in the offense in recent weeks. He continues to start at wide receiver, but last week led all rushers with 106 yards on 16 carries. He scored on an 81-yard run against Brunswick in the city title game as he raced along the visiting sideline for the touchdown.
The Terrors also figure to have an advantage in the kicking game with Chase Gabriel doing the punting and place-kicking. He booted two 52-yard field goals last week and also a 46-yarder in the win over Bradwell. He made a game-winning kick from 26 yards to give Glynn the 24-21 triumph over the Pirates in their rivalry meeting two weeks earlier.
“We can’t turn the ball over and need to play great special teams,” Hidalgo said.
Glynn has advanced to at least the second round in each of their previous five playoff appearances under Hidalgo. The Terrors made the quarterfinals in 2014, played for a state title in 2015, reached the quarterfinals again in 2016, played in the semifinals in 2017 and lost in round two last year to Valdosta.
The Glynn-Tucker winner will face the winner between top-ranked Dacula and Dalton in next week’s second round. Either team would be on the road if Dacula wins, but would host if Dalton scores an upset as a fourth seed.
Meantime, the Pirates (5-5) will be looking to win their first state playoff game since 2010 when they take on the Mustangs on Friday as they return to the playoffs after not winning a region game last fall. The Pirates went 2-2 in the region this season and finished as the No. 3 seed, losing tough to Glynn and falling big to league champion Richmond Hill while rolling past Effingham and knocking off Bradwell.
The Pirates were off last week while Morrow (6-4) finished out its season with a 39-13 victory over M.L. King, the No. 4 team in Region 4.
Morrow is making its first appearance in the playoffs since 1998 when the Mustangs got past Shaw 6-3 in the first round before losing to Cairo the next week.
The biggest key for Brunswick will be preventing big plays by Morrow senior quarterback Jimmy Calloway. The 6-0, 180-pounder is one of the state’s top recruits and is verbally committed to Tennessee as an athlete who likely will play wide receiver for the Volunteers. He is a dual-threat quarterback but is most dangerous running the ball especially on broken plays when he creates as he abandons the pocket.
“They go as Jimmy Calloway goes,” said BHS head coach Sean Pender. “He’s pretty special. He’s a dynamic athlete. He may not pass like a Michael Vick or Lamar Jackson, but he runs like them. We have to contain him, make sure he doesn’t beat us.”
Calloway also plays defensive back, returns kicks and punts and also does Morrow’s kicking and punting.
“He’s all over the place,” Pender said.
On offense, Brunswick’s offensive front will need to get a push against an athletic defensive line for the Mustangs who also have some active linebackers.
Brunswick’s formula for success has been running the ball with sophomores Chuckobe Hill and Ree Simmons and executing play-action passes, screens and shovel passes when it operates a balanced attack.
The Pirates believe they have an advantage in the kicking game, at least if they keep Calloway from hurting them in the return game.
“We’ll hopefully get the ball in good field position,” Pender said. “We need to control the ball with the run game, throw it when we need to and finish drives like we have been. We can’t turn it over.”
The winner between Brunswick and Morrow will face the Harrison-Winder Barrow winner next week. Harrison will be at home as a No. 1 seed if it wins, but the Brunswick-Morrow winner would host Winder Barrow which is a No. 4 seed.
The complete Class AAAAAA bracket can be viewed here.