The Long County Blue Tide football team knew it would not be able to make the state playoffs due to region tiebreakers, but went into the final game of the 2019 season with hopes of finishing strong and pulling off an upset. However, a strong third quarter from the Brantley County Herons led to a 40-7 loss on Friday, Nov. 8.
Ahead of the game, Long County honored its senior football players, managers, cheerleaders, band members, and cross country runners. The Tide graduate 14 seniors: Malik Berry, Garrett Bleyman, Jason Bryant, Jashon Carter, Jerome Carter, Maurice Carter, Carlos Cruz, Treyon Davis, Kai Loehnert, Anthony Lopez, Dillon Lopez, Chris Robinette, Dominic Roschmann, and Trajan Weatherspoon.
The Herons, who had locked up the final playoff spot for Region 2-AAA with the Tide’s loss to Tattnall County last week, wasted little time moving their way down the field thanks to a terrific rushing attack. They pushed their way down inside the Tide five yard line and finished the drive off with a four-yard run by Gavin King to give his team a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter.
The Blue Tide offense took the field from their own 38. A few negative plays led to a third and 12. Roschmann rolled out for a pass but was almost immediately swallowed up by Josh Strickland for a big sack, leading to a Tide punt.
The Herons took over right near midfield and they once again relied on their rushing attack to get them in the endzone. From the Tide 25, King took the misdirection hand off and raced up the sideline for the touchdown, giving the Herons a 13-0 lead after the missed extra point.
Roschmann led the Tide offense back on the field from their own 31 and freshman Zion Gillard got the call up the middle as he pounded away for a six-yard gain. On a third and short from the 40, Roschmann pulled the handoff away from Gillard and pitched it out to Tony Phillips, who powered his way across the 50 for the first down.
On the next play, Roschmann dropped back to pass and found his favorite target Trajan Weatherspoon up the Tide sideline. He made the catch in double coverage and got out of bounds at the 20 before being hit late, giving the Tide an extra 10 yards on the personal foul penalty.
Junior wingback Calvin Fate got the call on the counter and got down to the goal line but was just short of the endzone. The Tide went back to Fate on the next play and he found his way into the endzone for his first career touchdown. Orlando Tellez’s extra point made the score 13-7, giving the Tide a bit of momentum late in the first quarter.
It seemed as though the Tide defense could do little to stop the Herons’ and King’s rushing attack in the first half. King gained most of the yards on Brantley’s third drive of the night as they went on a 12-play, 69-yard drive that went into the second quarter. King got the call from the Tide 25 again and raced up the middle for the score, giving his team a 20-7 lead.
The Tide started inside their own 20 and went on a lengthy drive of their own, getting some good runs from Gillard, Phillips, and Fate along the way. Roschmann also hit Weatherspoon twice on the drive and the Tide eventually found themselves inside the Brantley 20, but facing a fourth and seven.
The field goal would have been too far away for the young Tellez, who had not attempted a field goal all season, so the Tide offense stayed on the field. Roschmann’s pass to an open Fate was just too far ahead of him as they turned the ball over on downs.
The Herons took their time on another long drive and were just inside the Tide 10 with under a minute left on the clock. They were forced to try a field goal, but it sailed wide right, giving the Tide defense a big stop right before halftime.
The Tide opened the second half with the ball inside their own 20 again. The drove up near midfield and faced a fourth and long. With nothing to lose, they decided to go for it, but the pass fell incomplete and the Tide turned the ball over on downs.
The Herons went on a drive and got back down inside the 10 yard line of Long County. This time, Clifford Patten got the call and found his way into the endzone to make the score 26-7. The Herons got another big break on the next Tide offensive play as Fate fumbled and it was picked up by RJ Bryan and returned for a touchdown, giving Brantley County a 33-7 lead.
The Herons were able to put one more score on the board in the fourth quarter as they moved to a 40-7 victory. The Tide finish the year 1-9 and 0-5 in the region. The seniors gave the team encouraging words after the game and they all hope the team will continue to grow and be more successful in the future.
As for the 2020 season, it could be a different look for the Tide as they might be looking at some different region opponents due to reclassification this year.