Brookwood's #14 Zach Moon
SNELLVILLE -- Brookwood's Region 8-AAAAAA game with Central Gwinnett was never really what it appeared at any given point.
First, a game that seemed to favor a comfortable lead for the host Broncos suddenly turned into a serious battle.
Yet, Brookwood's eventual 42-21 victory before a homecoming crowd Friday at Brookwood Community Stadium belied just how hard the Broncos had to work to finally subdue the visiting Black Knights.
"I sort of felt like we should be ahead 28 or maybe even 35 at halftime," Brookwood coach Mark Crews said after his team improved to 5-2 overall and 4-1 in region play. "We sort of let them hang around, and then all of a sudden, they scored twice. ... The bottom line is, you've got to make plays."
Both teams made their share of plays on the offensive side.
Brookwood got 133 yards and two touchdowns on the ground from Jamaal Cole, and while Zach Moon completed just seven of his 20 pass attempts on the night, with all of them going to Ky Priester, he struck for 217 yards, including a pair of scores to the N.C. State-bound receiver.
Meanwhile, Central (3-4, 1-4) got 101 rushing yards and a TD from Jourdin Shiloh, while Eman Westmoreland was 23 of 35 passing for 190 yards and two scores.
But it came down to mistakes from both sides in the second half, with Brookwood's ability and Central's inability to capitalize after the game was knotted at 14-all at the half.
"In the second half, between turnovers and penalties and busted coverages, we killed ourselves," Central coach Todd Wofford said. "That will do it any time. ... We've got to learn how to finish."
Brookwood began its finishing process by dominating time of possession in the third quarter, running 17 offensive plays to just six for Central.
Yet, the game was still tied 14-14 after the Broncos drove deep into Central territory before fumbling at the 18.
Still, a penalty on the next possession forced a Black Knights punt, and this time, Brookwood finished another long drive.
Moon sneaked in from a yard out to cap a nine-play 53-yard drive and put the Broncos in front 21-14 with 1:50 left in the quarter.
Still, Central had a chance to get right back in it early in the fourth quarter after Stedman Waiters pounced on a Brookwood fumble at the Black Knights' 43.
But two plays later, they gave it right back to the Broncos, with Liam Trainor scooping up a Central fumble at the 41.
Five plays later, Cole scored his second TD of the a game, this one from 2 yards out, to give Brookwood a little breathing room at 28-14 with 8:59 remaining.
The Broncos then put the game away when Moon connected with Priester on a 76-yard catch and run for a score with 4:23 left, and Matthew Price added a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown just over two minutes later.
The night started pretty much to script for Brookwood, which drove 69 yards with its first possession after a three-and-out stop by the defense.
The drive bogged down, but the Broncos still got on the board on a 34-yard scoring strike from Moon to Priester on fourth down to take a 7-0 lead just 3:11 after the opening kickoff.
But from that point, the Brookwood offense began to misfire, with dropped passes, overthrown passes and a diminishing running game forcing the Broncos into six punts over the remainder of the half.
Still, they seemed in control, especially after Aaron Daniel laid a big hit on Chris Shelling on a punt return to force a fumble, which Travis Farmer recovered to set Brookwood up on the Central 15-yard line.
And it took just two plays for the Broncos to cash in, with Cole walking into the end zone for a 3-yard TD to extend the lead to 14-0 with 9:31 left in the first half.
But late in the half, Central's offense, which had managed just 33 yards and one first down to that point, suddenly sprang to life.
The Black Knights used a combination Shiloh's running and Westmoreland's passing to dissect the Brookwood defense for an eight-play, 95-yard drive that culminated when Westmoreland hit Justin Brownlee with a 10-yard TD pass to cut the deficit to 14-7 with 4:03 left in the half.
Then after a three-and-out hold by the defense, Central got the ball once again and quickly moved into Brookwood territory with a 21-yard run by Shiloh.
Seven plays later, the Black Knights got a fortunate bounce to tie the game.
A Westmoreland pass intended for Nate Hartford got batted into the air by a Broncos defender, but the junior receiver stayed with the play and hauled in the loose ball for a 12-yard scoring strike with 4:03 left in the half, sending Central into intermission even at 14-14.