ATLANTA -- With one of the top returning wide receiver-quarterback combinations in Gwinnett County, the popular notion was Brookwood's offense would be more apt to take to the air this season.
In Saturday's opener against Walton at the Corky Kell Classic, however, the Broncos returned to traditional Brookwood football.
Junior running back Nick Tompkins ran for the bulk of his 123 yards in the first half, while sophomore Jamaal Cole celebrated his varsity debut with all of his 119 yards and a touchdown in the second half as Brookwood pulled away for 27-10 victory at the Georgia Dome.
Throw in Ben McLane's 132 yards on 8 of 16 passing and the Broncos (1-0) amassed 364 yards of total offense, though it was the ground game which took the most advantage as Walton (0-1) geared up to stop McLane and receiver A.J. Sims.
"We struggled throwing the ball a little bit (Saturday) because we struggled with pass protection a little bit," Brookwood coach Mark Crews said. "(Walton was) really being aggressive up front and bringing a lot of pressure. That opens up the draws and screens and that was what we were trying to do. And our tailbacks did a great job of adjusting to that."
Both teams had their ground games going in the first half, with Tompkins running for 109 on nine carries, while Walton's trio of Kyle Vorster, Rodney Kazibwe and Jim Houge combining for 98 on 19 carries.
After a 33-yard punt return by Sims set the Broncos up near midfield, Tompkins busted free for a 29-yard gain four plays later that keyed a seven-play, 37-yard drive, which ended with Eric Yang's 25-yard field goal, putting Brookwood up 3-0 with 3:12 left in the first quarter.
Then after Walton tied the game 3-3 early in the second quarter, another big punt return -- this time, a 19-yarder by Zeke Brown -- was again the catalyst in helping the Broncos regain the lead.
Three plays later, McLane sneaked in from a yard out and Yang added the extra point to make the score 10-3 with 6:40 left in the first half.
But it didn't take long for Walton to answer as Zack Blaylock took the ensuing kickoff back 63 yards to the Brookwood 34.
Five plays later, Kyle Vorster walked in from 4 yards out and Nathan Dittmer's point after tied the game 10-10 with 4:08 left in the half.
Brookwood had another chance to take the lead again before halftime, but penalties on three straight plays negated big gains and took the Broncos from midfield deep into their own territory, and they settled for the tie at intermission.
In the second half, it was Cole who stepped up to lead the Broncos' thundering herd.
But first Brookwood's special teams continued its good work.
First, Yang put the Broncos up for good at 13-10 with his 26-yard field goal just 1:19 into the third quarter.
Then Brown rushed in from the right end and blocked Dittmer's 43-yard field goal attempt after Walton drove as deep as the Brookwood 26 to keep the the Broncos' lead at a touchdown.
"I think that was a big play," Walton coach Rocky Hidalgo said. "If we get the field goal, we're still hanging in. We're a young team, and ... we've got to learn how to battle adversity."
Cole and the Brookwood offense then gave the young Raiders plenty of more adversity to deal with.
The sophomore was not fazed by playing in his first varsity game in front of thousands of fans at the cavernous Georgia Dome.
He made an impact on his first varsity carry, taking a handoff on a draw and sprinting his way 49 yards through the Walton defense for a touchdown that put Brookwood in front 17-10 with 5:18 left in the third quarter.
"It felt great. I felt like I was on top of the world," Cole said of starting his career with a touchdown. "I just stepped up. Coach (Crews) told me to be ready at halftime. I said, 'All right Coach. I'm ready to get in.' I got in and I did my thing."
McLane then added the knockout blow when he hit Cameron Lynch on a 38-yard scoring strike with 4:33 to play to make it 27-10.