SAVANNAH — Bradwell Institute senior Jahlil Witt blocked Beach senior Tyrie Taylor’s 21-yard field goal attempt with 3 minutes, 38 seconds to play to preserve the Tigers’ 22-21 victory over the Bulldogs in both teams’ Region 3-AAAAA opener Friday night at Memorial Stadium.
“Last week, against Charlton County, I tried to block a punt and I ran into the kicker,” Witt said. “I was worried about not running into the kicker (against Beach). I didn’t over-pursue. I just put my hands up. The ball hit me in the chest.”
Witt said he was confident he would block the field goal attempt because he successfully blocked a punt midway through the fourth quarter.
After Witt blocked the field goal attempt, Bradwell took possession at its 12-yard line. On fourth-and-3 from the Tigers’ 19-yard line, new defensive coordinator DeAndre Davis called for a fake punt. Junior Greg Howard took the direct snap and ran for a 26-yard gain. Bradwell took a knee on its next three plays to run out the game clock.
“My defensive coordinator also handles the punt team,” Bradwell head coach Jim Walsh Jr. said. “It’s something we work on all the time. He works on that all the time. And they were actually giving us what he was looking for so he made the call. It gave us a crucial first down and it ended up winning the game for us.”
Beach (1-2, 0-1) had a 21-0 lead in the second quarter before Bradwell (1-2, 1-0) stormed back. The Tigers took their first lead of the game with 11:32 to play when senior Marsalis Jackson returned a punt for a 97-yard touchdown.
“(Jackson) is a pretty special player,” Walsh said. “He made the big play when the big play needed to be made and I’m proud of him.”
Beach scored touchdowns on two of its first three possessions. The Bulldogs led, 7-0, after junior Maynard Potter ran for a 2-yard touchdown and Taylor kicked the first of his three extra points. With 36 seconds left in the first quarter, Beach sophomore Craig Reid ran for a 2-yard touchdown to make it 14-0.
Bradwell’s offense executed only five plays in the first quarter. The Tigers punted after the first three plays of their first possession. Beach senior quarterback Larry Murray was intercepted during the Bulldogs’ second drive but Bradwell fumbled during the interception return and Beach recovered.
Bradwell did not manage to get a first down until seconds before the first quarter ended.
Beach took a 21-0 lead with 5:57 left before halftime when senior Jarrod Jackson ran for an 18-yard touchdown.
“We were flat coming out, defensively,” Walsh said. “Normally, we play with a lot of excitement on defense. It was just one of those nights where we had to rely on the offense and special teams, and they were able to pull it out for us. It’s good getting a win.”
Bradwell cut the score to 21-7 with 5:32 left before halftime. Senior quarterback Myrese Cobb lofted a dump pass over Beach’s blitzing defenders to junior running back Quonte Haggray, who caught the ball and ran for a 65-yard touchdown. Sophomore Robert Miller kicked the extra point.
Seconds before halftime, Miller kicked a 22-yard field goal to cut the score to 21-10.
Bradwell cut it to 21-16 with 4:15 left in the third quarter on Haggray’s 3-yard touchdown run. Haggray finished with 11 carries for 42 yards and three catches for 85 yards. Cobb was 8-of-18 passing for 137 yards without an interception.
The Tigers took their first lead of the game with 11:32 to play when Jackson fielded a punt at Bradwell’s 3-yard line. He started to his right, cut up the middle and darted back outside, racing near the Tigers’ sideline into the end zone.
“We didn’t hit the panic button, down 21,” Walsh said. “We just came out and did our thing and we started clicking. I’m proud of them. I’m really proud of every kid in our program. They’ve worked hard. They’ve persevered. And not giving up is what gave us a win tonight. They came out in the second half and they got after it.”
Beach attempted to punt but Witt blocked it and freshman Ryan Victorian recovered for Bradwell. The Tigers’ ensuing drive stalled when Beach senior defensive lineman Willie Vurgess sacked Cobb for an 8-yard loss.
Bradwell punted and Beach executed six plays, including a 35-yard pass from Murray to Taylor, before Taylor attempted the 21-yard field goal that Witt blocked.
“It’s a tough loss, being up 21-0, but I’ll take that one,” Beach head coach Ulysses Hawthorne said. “It’s up to the coach to keep his kids playing. The head coach has to keep his kids playing and his coaches coaching. I just didn’t do my job tonight, so I’ll take the blame for it.
“They blocked a punt. They blocked a field goal. And they had a punt return (for a touchdown). They had a fake punt (for a first down). Coach Walsh and his staff just did a better job than we did.”
Said Walsh, “I’m happy for our kids. It’s been a struggle for us. And tonight, I think they might have done a little growing up. And that’s good to see.”
Beach - Maynard Potter 2 run (Tyrie Taylor kick)
Beach - Craig Reid 2 run (Taylor kick)
Beach - Jarrod Jackson 18 run (Taylor kick)
BI - Quonte Haggray 65 pass from Myrese Cobb (Robert Miller kick)
BI - Miller 22 FG
BI - Haggray 3 run (run failed)
BI - Marsalis Jackson 97 punt return (kick failed)