By Kevin Price
For GCS Athletics
Who knows what the game-winning play might end up being called in the annals of the City Championhip series between Brunswick High and Glynn Academy?
The Bomb Between the Bricks?
The Answer to Pirate Prayers? Maybe, the Hail Mary off Highway 17, or perhaps the Great Pandemic Pass?
Whatever, it may be one day, the 75-yard touchdown pass Friday night in the closing moments from BHS senior quarterback KJ Lee to senior receiver Tyrease Jones could very well be the single greatest play in the history of the local rivalry as it lifted the Pirates to an exciting 24-21 triumph over the Red Terrors at Glynn County Stadium.
“Without a doubt. No question,” said Brunswick radio color commentator and former BHS player Kipp Branch when broached about the subject on the field after the game.
For certain, the touchdown pass, which was first deflected by a Glynn defender who sprawled out to knock it away, delivered a much-needed victory for the Pirates in perhaps what also could have been the best-ever game played between the crosstown rivals because of the frenzied last minute of the contest.
That also begs this question. What will this 2020 game, which was the 77th overall meeting between the Pirates and Terrors, possibly be referred to as it takes its place in the history of the Glynn-Brunswick rivalry which dates back to 1968.
Maybe, the Miracle by the Marsh or the Frantic Finish off Fourth Street?
No matter, the first Region 2-AAAAAA game for the locals certainly ended up producing the result the Pirates (3-2 overall, 1-0 league) needed as BHS stopped Glynn’s six-year run as the City Champion. The Terrors had never lost to the Pirates under current head coach Rocky Hidalgo who became their coach prior to the 2014 season.
Brunswick left with its first city title since the 2013 season. The title was the first for BHS head coach Sean Pender, now in his fourth season with the Pirates.
“I don’t know. It might be the greatest game of all-time between us,” Pender said. “All I know is it’s the greatest in my four years here in Brunswick.”
By winning the last six meetings, the Terrors (2-3, 0-1) had retired two straight city crowns and could have set a new official record for most consecutive wins by either team in the series with a seventh straight victory in the city title game Friday night.
After falling behind 14-0, Glynn trailed until just inside the final minute when it closed an eight-play,90-yard drive to take its first and only lead of the night by reaching for some trickery in the team’s offensive playbook.
Coming out of a timeout following a substitution infraction which left them facing a third-and-15 play from the Brunswick 35-yard line, the Terrors ran a double-reverse flea-flicker. Senior quarterback TJ Lewis handed off to Caden Huthinson who headed right and gave the ball to Jayden Drayton who would run back toward Lewis and flip the ball back to him.
All this time, Hutchinson was sprinting down the GA sideline but got picked up one-on-one around the 25. Lewis locked in on his fellow senior and heaved the ball toward the goal line. Though well-defended, Hutchinson made a diving catch just inside the right pylon for the incredible touchdown which gave Glynn its first lead of the night with less than 50 seconds left in the game.
While several Pirates who were on the field went to their knees in despair, the Terrors were penalized for excessive celebration, but still added the point-after kick to make the score 24-21.
Having lost last year on a field goal as time expired, it looked like the Pirates were headed for another bitter defeat at the hands of the Terrors. Desperate now, the Pirates got the ball following Glynn’s kickoff at their own 25 with about 40 seconds to go.
On their second snap, the Pirates called play “94” which is designed to go to Jones who was running a crossing route in the middle of the field . The idea was really to advance the ball near midfield and hopefully then take a few shots at throwing the ball to the end zone.
All of that wouldn’t be necessary. Jones went up to snare the long pass from Lee, but the ball was deflected by Drayton, also playing defensive back. Jones saw the ball still in the air and corralled it. With the ball tucked away, he turned to head south toward the GA end zone and would win the foot race to the goal stripe for the improbable score that quickly put the Pirates back on top.
“I was always taught not to give up,” Jones said. “I saw the ball pop up and I attacked it. Once I got it tucked away, I started to run. I was thinking I’m fixing to score.”
The score went to 24-21 following the PAT, but 16 seconds remained on the game clock.
Glynn got the ball one last time, and the game clock expired after consecutive incomplete passes. The Pirates stormed the field to celebrate and fireworks were filling the dark sky above the Athletic Center building beyond the South goal.
A yellow flag on the field – thrown for a roughing the passer penalty against the Pirates, meant the game could not end, however. The ball would be moved to midfield and Glynn would get one more untimed down.
Earlier this season when the Pirates played at home against McIntosh County Academy, the Pirates committed a penalty on the last play of the game deep in their territory. The infraction gave MCA another snap and the Buccaneers scored on a short run to avoid a shutout and make the final score 21-6.
Here, the Pirates had to play pass defense once more, and a desperation heave into the end zone from 50 yards away by Glynn’s Lewis toward a cluster of players from both teams fell to the ground, thus finally ending the ballgame.
The Pirates were presented the City Championship Trophy during an on-field celebration. Jones was named the Glynn County Sports Hall of Fame Player of the Game for his lead role in that game-winning play. Lee was selected as the Farm Bureau Insurance Offensive Player of the Game and Zane Rosenbaum was chosen as the Defensive Player of the Game.
“Coach Hidalgo congratulated me, said our win was well-deserved,” Pender said when asked about his quick meeting with the GA boss right after the final horn.
Only the two head coaches could shake hands following the game due to Covid-19 rules for the game. The players on both sides tipped their helmets toward each other instead.
“I’m just so proud of the players. We talk about family, we played together as a family,” Pender said.
Lee was 12-for-19 for 242 yards and the touchdown. Jones had one other catch for 3 yards.
BHS totaled 363 yards as it added 121 on the ground. Ree Simmons carried 16 times for 71 yards and a TD while Chuckobe Hill, hurt since the opening loss at Pierce County, returned to rush for 45 yards and a score on 10 attempts.
“We knew we had to run the ball and knew we could run it,” Pender said.
Glynn finished with 342 yards including 241 rushing and 101 passing.
Lewis gained a game-high 133 yards on 20 rushes while scoring twice. He completed 3 of 4 passes for 101 yards and the one touchdown.
Hutchinson finished with 83 yards rushing on 14 attempts.
Brunswick scored the first two times it had the ball to jump out to a 14-0 advantage. BHS started its opening series at its own 47 after a short kick by Glynn and needed just three plays to strike with Simmons scoring from 32 yards and a 7-0 lead after the PAT.
GA went three-and-out on its first possession, and Brunswick began its second drive at its on 19. The Pirates covered the 81 yards in eight plays with Hill scoring from a yard out.
“We knew we had to establish the run, and I felt like we did a good job with that on those first two drives,” Pender said.
Glynn quickly went to work on its second offensive series, running power plays right at the Pirates. The Terrors drove 67 yards in six snaps with Lewis scoring the first of his two touchdows on a 15-yard keeper. The PAT made it 14-7.
Late in the first half, Glynn came up a yard short on a fourth-and-4 play from the BHS 30 and thus gave the ball back to Brunswick with 3:16 left before intermission.
The Pirates kept the ball for the rest of the quarter but did not score.
GA got the ball to open the third period, but couldn’t muster a scoring threat.
Brunswick began its first series after the break at its own 45 and would keep the ball for more than six minutes before settling for a 24-yard field goal by Kyle Rehberg with 3:21 to play in the third after having the ball first-and-goal on the GA 6.
The Terrors had the ball when the final period started and were backed up on their own 4. With Lewis leading the way, GA marched into BHS territory and would score on a 3-yard keeper by its quarterback to pull within 17-14 with still more than eight minutes to play.
BHS was forced to punt on its next possession and pinned Glynn back on its 10. A 30-yard gain on a pass play got the Terrors rolling and they took the ball down to the BHS 30 with the clock reaching the two-minute mark about that same time.
Rosenbaum made a key tackle on Lewis to possibly prevent a big gain on Glynn’s first snap from the 30, and on second down, a pass that was broken up was almost caught by a GA receiver near the Brunswick goal line.
Glynn was whistled for the illegal substitution infraction before its third-down play which left Glynn’s Hidalgo visibly upset with his troops. Now facing third-and-15 from the 35, Hidalgo asked for a timeout to talk things over with his players and coaches.
Out of the timeout, the Terrors ran their trickery which led to a brief lead and pandemonium on their side of the field.
On the home side, many probably couldn’t believe what had just transpired, but may also have been thinking why am I surprised?
Brunswick’s offensive coaches weren’t thinking that, though.
“We still felt like we could make something happen,” Pender said.
Nor were the players who were involved in what will become a legendary play in Pirates’ football history.
“For sure, I felt like we could do this,” Jones said.
“We stuck together as brothers,” Lee said. “We felt like we could still pull it out, and we pulled it out at the end. We didn’t give up, kept fighting.”
So did the Terrors, who in the end could not completely recover from that early 14-point deficit.
“I thought our kids played really hard, but we made some mistakes, and it cost us the game,” Hidalgo said. “Brunswick played really well, and I’m not taking anything away from them. They played their tails off. They got up on us early. We screwed a bunch of stuff up and spotted them 14 points, and it is what it is.”
And what it also will be is a water-cooler game for the ages. You know, one of those epic games football fans in the community will always remember and possibly discuss around the office water dispenser when talking local prep pigskin in the years to come.
This Covid-19 season is likely to come up when football memories are shared, and now six weeks into the 2020 season in Georgia that was delayed by two weeks, there arguably hasn’t been a finish to a game better than this one Friday along the marshes of Glynn.
It was as wild as any ride that could have been set up at the nearby local fairgrounds for the annual fall fair in a non-pandemic year.
And this epic 78th edition of Glynn-Brunswick will never be buried deep in the archives of this long-running rivalry series as if were yard debris going several feet under the earth as part of the daily trash pile at the old city dump that used to occupy the site of the stadium’s visiting parking grounds.
This latest game figures to long be among the best in City Championship lore with the game notes and film figuring to be easy to find in Brunswick High’s historical archives, perhaps packed right near the original writing of the school’s alma mater and the first recorded score of the BHS fight song.
“It was a battle. Even when we were up 14-0, I knew it was still going to come down to the fourth quarter,” Pender said.
But, even all the way to those final 60 seconds and really even beyond the final horn?
Holy blue, gold, red and white smokes!
“Wow!” exclaimed the stadium public address announcer after the Pirates’ miracle touchdown that gave them the lead again and sent the entire stadium into a state of shock.
Again now, just wow!