STATESBORO — Bradwell Institute came close to breaking a long losing streak but, somehow, Friday night’s loss seemed nearly fated.
Ten years ago, kicker Josh Rich nailed a 29-yard field goal to give the Statesboro Blue Devils a state championship with a 13-10 win over Northside Warner Robins.
Friday night at Womack Field, with Rich and the rest of the 2005 state champion Devils looking on from the sidelines, the stage was set for Ryan Miller to give Blue Devils fans a case of deja vu as Statesboro took on the Tigers.
After missing a 35-yard field goal with 5.3 seconds left in regulation, Miller stepped on the field again for a 45-yard field goal attempt in overtime. This time, his kick sailed through the uprights, defeating Bradwell 13-10 and sending the crowd into a frenzy on homecoming night.
“I was just going out there trying to be cool, calm and collected and it went right down the pike,” Miller said after the game.
It was a fitting homecoming matchup between the Blue Devils (2-5, 2-3 Region 3-AAAAA) and Tigers (0-7, 0-5).
Tigers’ head coach Greg Hill, who was an assistant coach with the Statesboro 2005 AAAA state championship team, returned to Womack Field to take on his former squad.
The 2005 state championship Blue Devils were honored at halftime for the 10-year anniversary of the team’s undefeated title run.
“Hats off to Greg Hill and his team,” Statesboro head coach Steve Pennington said. “Both of our programs are struggling right now, and in all honesty, we matched up well against them. Both teams fought hard tonight and to win it with a field goal is very special.”
The Blue Devils had a tough time early. Statesboro’s defense held the Tigers out of the end zone on a fourth down attempt from the 1-yard line. But two plays later, Statesboro gave up its third safety in two games to give Bradwell a 2-0 lead in the second quarter.
Just before halftime, the Blue Devils answered with another defensive stop. Blue Devils’ linebacker Jadarrian Robinson picked off a pass from freshman quarterback Quinn McMassey with under a minute left in the half. That set up a 33-yard touchdown pass from Davis Wiggins to Reginald Hunter to give Statesboro a 7-2 lead.
In the third quarter, the Tigers capitalized on an 80-yard drive capped by running back Luther Echols’ 8-yard touchdown run. Echols would also run in the two-point conversion to reclaim Bradwell’s lead at 10-7.
In the fourth quarter and beyond it was Miller’s time to shine. Not only did the Blue Devils’ standout kicker/punter nail three punts inside the 10-yard line, but he also hit a 49-yard field goal with 10:21 left in the fourth to tie.
“Our punting was a key factor in the game,” Pennington said. We really kept the field backed up on Bradwell Institute, which helped our defense and kept the pressure on them. Special teams are very important and that’s why they call them special.”
Samad Foster intercepted yet another McMassey pass toward the end of the game and scrambled for a 40-yard return to the Bradwell 20-yard line.
However, with 5.3 seconds left, Miller’s kick went wide left. Despite a protest from Miller, the game went into overtime.
“The referees called it no good. That was a tough call, but in overtime, I hit it,” Miller said. “It was a lot of redemption.”