The last week of the football regular season is upon us, and for some this is the most exciting time of the year. Teams across the state are preparing for their playoff matchups or fighting for a playoff berth. Unfortunately, Bradwell will not fall into either of those categories. Last week’s loss to Effingham County made it mathematically impossible for us to make the playoffs.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t have work to do. For us, we still have one more game to get better, one more game to fight, and one more game to win. The season doesn’t end when you can’t make the playoffs — it ends when the horn sounds at the end of your last game. We will continue to fight until that moment.
Despite the loss last week, we had a great deal of positives in the Effingham game. Offensively, coach Giddens called a great game and racked up a lot of yardage. Vencent Gilbert had his second 100+ yard passing game of the season, and he threw a touchdown pass to Tah’Dreque Smith, who we moved to offense from the defensive line.
Kevin Harris continued his impressive season, as he rushed for 114 yards on 14 carries — in the first quarter. He went down with an ankle sprain early in the second quarter and didn’t return. He has more than 1,600 yards rushing for the season. C.J. Nelson filled in nicely when Harris went down, rushing for nearly 150 yards on 20 carries. Kenneth Lockhart had a strong showing as well, connecting on two field goals, including a career long 45-yarder, and converting his only PAT attempt.
The downside offensively is that we continue to shoot ourselves in the foot and struggle to punch the ball into the end zone. Penalties negated several big runs Friday, and we had turnovers in key situations. Our focus this week and in the offseason will be turning big yard nights into big scoring nights. Hopefully we will see a lot of growth in that area from year 1 to year 2 in this system.
On the defensive side of the ball, the trend of giving up big plays early in the game continued when the Rebels broke off a long touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage on a reverse. We got out of position and didn’t have the speed to recover. If you take away that play and one long run in the fourth quarter when the game was out of hand, coach Eldridge dialed up a defense that hemmed up Effingham’s running attack.
But our secondary woes continued as well. We have been beat by the deep ball throughout region play, but we have done well against the short stuff. That was flipped this week. I don’t think we gave up a single pass over 10 yards, but missed tackles and bad leverage by our DBs in the short passing game led to big plays by the Rebels.
Overall, we must get better at what we do. We must improve our strength and speed, we must raise our football IQs, and we must execute in big moments. Those are the things we will focus on this week moving into the offseason, and we will come out next year stronger in those areas.
TIGERS THIS WEEK: Our last game of the season will be Friday at Olvey Field against the Glynn Academy Red Terrors, and it will also be Senior Night, when we recognize our senior players in their final game in the blue and gold. The reigning region champions will be a tough matchup, as they utilize a shotgun option attack like that of Tulane head coach Willie Fritz. Defensively, the Terrors are fast and physical. Coach Hidalgo is still pushing his team for a share of a region title, so he won’t pull any punches. Offensively and defensively, we must play assignment football and execute.
MIDDLE SCHOOL FOOTBALL APPRECIATION: All middle school football players from the county are invited to be on the field Friday with the Tigers during pregame warmups. They will also run out with the Tigers at the beginning of the game. We ask that all of the individuals interested in participating report to the B.I. Field House at 6 p.m. on Friday.
Couch is Bradwell Institute football coach. He’s also a former award winning sportswriter.