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HAMMOCK: Broncos' defense delivers in big way against Eagles

SNELLVILLE — Almost half the fourth quarter was gone Friday night when the most prolific passer in Gwinnett County history, Taylor Heinicke, completed a miraculous heave of a pass on fourth-and-21.

The play had no real impact on the game, but it produced a rarity — Collins Hill’s initial first down of the second half. The Eagles only got one more first down the rest of the way as the Brookwood defense delivered mightily in a 26-7 win in the Class AAAAA semifinals.

Heinicke became Gwinnett’s first 4,000-yard passer in the game, but he was intercepted three times by the Broncos, two by Nick Moore and one by Cameron Lynch. He had thrown just six picks in Collins Hill’s first 13 games.

An offense that few teams could slow down this season hit a maroon and gold wall in Snellville. The visitors’ only score came midway through the second quarter and led to a 7-3 halftime lead.

“We were determined (coming out of halftime),” Moore said. “Our guys were ready to go. All week we heard the Collins Hill offense does this. Taylor Heinicke does this. ... We got tired of hearing how good they were. Holding that team to seven points was huge.”

The Brookwood defense did well in the first half, getting a couple of key stops. The first was a huge play by A.J. Sims, who knocked down a pass on fourth-and-goal from the Bronco 3-yard line that was intended for Jeff Glover. Late in the first half, Moore had a leaping interception inside his own 10 to thwart another threat.

In the second half, there would be no threats.

Collins Hill’s three possessions in the third quarter ended with a three-and-out, a third-down interception by Lynch and another three-and-out. Meanwhile, the Brookwood offense chugged away to build the 26-7 lead.

Sims, Moore and their fellow defensive backs also held their own against Collins Hill’s talented receivers, getting a boost from star running back Nick Tompkins, who logged heavy snaps in the secondary, too. Though Jeff Glover had eight catches (including Heinicke’s fourth-down toss) for 121 yards, teammate Zay Howard, who entered the game with 1,046 receiving yards was held to one catch.

The effort completed a major turnaround for a Brookwood defense that had its problems earlier in the season. In Game 2, the Broncos won a 45-38 shootout with Collins Hill in double overtime. The following week the defense couldn’t get off the field in a 24-14 loss to Dacula.

But since that setback, the defense has only gotten better. On Friday, the unit was at its best.

“We don’t have a bunch of big stars (on defense),” Brookwood head coach Mark Crews said. “We’ve just got a bunch of kids who play together, a bunch of hard-working kids who are playing great and playing together.”

Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His regular column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, visit www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock.