Bradwell Institute faced a tall order Friday night against a top-seeded team, but the Tigers’ defense managed to hold back the Ware County Gators for the first half of the 39-6 loss at Olvey Field.
It was still anyone’s game at halftime as the Tigers trailed 15-6 — a mere touchdown and a two-point conversion. But injuries started taking their toll, an interception gave the Gators a score and a strong running game gave Ware County the edge. In the second half of regulation, they racked up 24 points to seal the win.
The Tigers, without coach Jim Walsh Jr. on the sidelines due to his suspension for arguing with officials last week, started with good field position in the first half thanks to DeAndre Day. Day unofficially posted 60 yards in kick returns, setting up the Tigers twice at the 25 and once at the 27-yard line.
On the opening offensive drive, the Tigers had a three-and-out. Robert Miller came out for his first of four punts in the first half but kicked it short for 36 yards. The Gators were just shy of midfield at the 46, but Tiger Greg Howard stuffed the running back on third down for a 10-yard loss, forcing the punt.
After another three-and-out, Miller set up for the punt but BI was called for a delay, forcing him back to punt from the seven. Miller got off a high kick, but the Gators had a short field again, starting at the 48.
Tiger defender Jordan Portley stuffed a run by Gator Xavier Tobler but on the next play, Tobler busted open an 18-yard run. A short run and a five-yard pass set up the visitors at the two-yard line. Tobler jumped over a pile of Tigers for a touchdown.
The Tigers had another three-and-out, and Miller was at the 26 when he launched another long punt. He also drew a roughing-the-kicker call, giving the offense a new set of downs.
But the Tigers couldn’t seem to break the three-and-out habit, and Miller was on the field again on fourth-and-short. Lined up for the punt, Miller suddenly ran into the formation and the Gators read the play, stuffing the Tigers’ try for a first-down conversion.
That gave the Gators the ball at their 42 and another short field to work with for their next touchdown. Tobler rushed to the 49, and Gator quarterback Zae Ealey launched a 44-yard pass to Andre Mathews, who was tackled at the five. That set up a five-yard touchdown by Markevis Davenport. The Gators converted for two and were up 15-0 with three minutes before the half.
The Tigers finally broke the three-and-out on the next drive. After being tackled for a big loss, the Tigers faced second-and-25, and LaBaron Anthony launched a pass to Marquis Parker, drawing a pass-interference call against the Gators at midfield. Anthony got slightly injured on a play and Darren Tatum came in for a snap but fumbled and recovered the ball for an eight-yard loss. Anthony came back in on fourth-and-18 with the ball at the 35. Anthony found Kirk Hill on a screen play and Hill was brought down at the four-yard line. Day then ran to the corner of the end zone for the score, but the snap for the extra point was low.
the Tigers went into the locker room trailing 15-6.
The Gators received the ball to start the third quarter and marched to the Tigers’ 16-yard line. Again the Tigers’ defense buckled down and Shakazz Johnson made a big tackle for a loss, forcing a fourth-and-24 and a Gator field-goal attempt.
The Gators lined up and caught the Tigers off-sides, making it easier for their kicker to split the cross-bars and go up 18-6.
On the ensuing offensive drive, Anthony was picked and the Gators were set at the Tigers’ 18. Three plays later, Tobler scampered in for the touchdown and the Gators went up 25-6.
Each team then exchanged three and punts and the Tigers got pinned at their two-yard line. The Gators nearly scored on a safety and later got the ball on downs at the Tigers’ one, setting up another Gator touchdown to end the third quarter up 32-6.
In the fourth quarter, Tigers Chris Wells and Joseph Bulnes sustained slight injuries but still were able to play. Defender Cameron Riles came out of the game with an ankle injury, and later Anthony was taken out with an injury to the elbow.
The Gators were able to hold the Tigers to punts and with five minutes left they added their final touchdown on a four-play 60-yard drive for the 39-6 win.
The Gators improved to 6-0 in Region 3-AAAAA and 8-1 overall. The Tigers are 1-8 overall and 1-5 in the region and will host a winless Groves High next week at Olvey Field for senior day. The Tigers also will retire former Tiger and NFL players Gary Guyton’s high school jersey. Guyton is scheduled to attend the event.