Brookwood tears through its banner as it enters the field to play host to Collins Hill on Friday night.
Brookwood vs. Collins Hill highlights
Highlights from the Brookwood vs. Collins Hill football game
SNELLVILLE -- This isn't what Brookwood's opponents expected.
Of the Broncos' starting 11 on defense this season, only four started in last year's Class AAAAA state championship game win. Of the seven who graduated, two were all-state players and one was the Daily Post's defensive player of the year.
With those holes to fill, Brookwood was bound to struggle on defense, right? Not quite.
The Broncos played outstanding defensively for the second straight game on Friday night, stifling Collins Hill in a 24-7 victory in their home opener. The Eagles' only scoring drive was aided by four penalties late, and the visitors tallied only 107 total yards.
The unit gave Brookwood its third win over Collins Hill the past two seasons, including one in last year's state semifinals. The Eagles are now 1-10 all-time against the Broncos.
"We played great on defense," said Brookwood's D.J. Brown, who had one of his team's three interceptions. "We stopped the run and they're a good running team with (Jordan) Parker at running back. We just played great all-around on defense."
Brown, Josh Brown and Jamaal Cole intercepted passes as Collins Hill completed just 10 of 22 attempts. More importantly, the Broncos controlled Parker, who had 219 yards in an opening win over Roswell. He gained only 40 yards on 15 carries on Friday.
Conner Hennessey, Ramirez Galbreath and Javier Dyer each had sacks for Brookwood.
"We sort of changed our style on defense a little bit, partly out of necessity, because we played so many spread offenses," said Brookwood head coach Mark Crews, whose team bounced back from a Corky Kell Classic loss to Lassiter two weeks ago. "We do a lot more blitzing, a lot more speed stuff, spread stuff on defense. Our kids enjoy playing that style and the coaches have done a great job with it."
Brookwood's offense, which struggled to put up points in the 14-6 opening loss, had a good first half as Brookwood went up 21-0 at halftime. Nick Tompkins (27 carries, 119 yards) had 79 of his yards in the first half and Cole rushed for two scores.
The defense got a big early stop, after Collins Hill started its first drive at the Broncos' 39-yard line, when D.J. Brown intercepted a high screen pass intended for Nick England. Seven plays and 58 yards later, Cole finished off the drive with a 10-yard TD run.
After a three-and-out by Collins Hill, the Broncos needed just seven plays to score again when Tompkins powered in from a yard out at the end of the first quarter.
A second interception by Cole in the second quarter set up Brookwood for first-and-goal at the Collins Hill 8-yard-line. Cole finished that up with a 7-yard scoring run and a 21-0 lead at the break.
Collins Hill gained just 47 yards on its 18 offensive plays in the first half, averaging 2.6 yards a play.
"They're good, they're athletic, they run well," Collins Hill head coach Kevin Reach said of Brookwood's defense. "We just couldn't get a drive going."
Brookwood's offense hit the skids in the second half, turning it over on its first two possessions on an interception by Daniel Fish and a fumble recovery by Sam Batiste. But even that couldn't kick-start the Eagles' offense.
The Broncos did that themselves with defensive penalties. Two pass interference calls, a facemask and a horse collar tackle accounted for 45 of the 71 yards in Collins Hill's fourth-quarter scoring drive that finished with a 10-yard TD pass from Brett Sheehan to Nick England.
England had caught six of his team's 10 completions for 49 of its 62 passing yards.
The Eagles' defense fared well in the second half, holding Brookwood to just a 39-yard Brandon Morrow field goal.
"In the second half, the score was 7-3," Reach said. "I know (Brookwood) changed some at halftime when they were up 21-0, but our defense played well. I'm proud of our kids. In the second half, we played a lot harder."
It wasn't enough to close the gap on a stout Bronco defense, or an offense that played much better than in its opener. First-year starting quarterback Zach Moon made some good throws when he had to, finishing 5 of 9 passing for 68 yards.
"I'm just proud of our kids for bouncing back after not playing well, particularly on offense, in the first game," Crews said. "Some of our linemen are young and still learning, but they're getting better. And Collins Hill has got a good football team. It's early in the season, but I'm glad to get a win."