South Gwinnett’s Malik Brown (5) finds some running room before he is pushed out of bounds by Brookwood’s J.D. Holt (88) during Friday’s game. (Photo: Craig Cappy)
SNELLVILLE — Everything looked easy.
Coray Keel had just ripped off a 70-yard touchdown reception and then Patrick Richards picked off a pass. Ian Killian followed the turnover with a 19-yard touchdown catch and South Gwinnett was cruising in the Battle of Snellville, up 30-14 over Brookwood with 7:50 left in the game.
When the final second ticked off, relief trumped exhilaration with South Gwinnett holding off a stunning Brookwood rally to win 30-28.
“You’ve got to give them credit, they kept fighting,” South head coach John Small said of Brookwood. “Our kids hung in there at the end of the game. I couldn’t be prouder of them. Our kids have a lot of guts, a lot of heart. I have seen a lot of young men grow up this year.
“They have battled through some adversity with their backs against the wall.”
That almost literally was the case Friday.
Facing the big deficit, Brookwood finally found some offense. The Comets’ defense held Brookwood to just 26 yards in the third quarter, but things opened up in the final minutes. Joey McLane marched the Broncos 87 yards on 5 of 10 passing for 94 yards, including a 23-yard completion on third-and-10 from their own 13 and a 40-yard pass to Mike Allen. Allen, a senior, caught the touchdown pass and the 2-point conversion as Brookwood squeaked to within eight. After throwing two interceptions in the half and taking five sacks, McLane threw for 244 yards on 14 of 23 passing with two touchdowns.
It was Allen again recovering the onside kick, giving the Broncos the ball with 4:22 left. Brookwood returned to its primary offensive threat, Jesse Brown, who powered Brookwood to the 5-yard line as the clock kept ticking. Three run plays later, with just 29 seconds left in the game, Brookwood faced fourth-and-goal from the 4. McLane hit Allen diving across the middle of the field to pull the Broncos to within two points with 11 seconds on the clock.
“It was all about playing aggressive and attacking,” South senior defensive lineman Sean Rockhead said of the timeout before the conversion attempt.
Brookwood turned to McLane again, but the pass to Matthew Price hit the ground as the receiver dove, maintaining the suddenly slim lead.
“I saw the whole thing,” Rockhead said. “It felt great. This was my last game here. It felt great.”
The win puts the Comets (4-5, 3-4 region) in position, after a 1-4 start, to earn a playoff berth with a win next week against Parkview. Brookwood (4-5, 4-3) faces Grayson next week in potential elimination game, pending the outcome of South’s game against the Panthers.
“Our kids fought hard,” Brookwood head coach Mark Crews said. “We are going to play hard next week and hope we get a chance to play in the 11th week.”
The first half didn’t foreshadow the second in any way.
Riding the back of Jesse Brown from the start, Brookwood used his presence to take a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. The Broncos started their second drive on the South 40 after a wobbly punt and after one of its five first half penalties, a play-action fake to Brown left Joshua Collins wide open for a 43-yard completion. On the next play, Brown punched the ball in from two-yards out.
South answered with a field goal, marching 77 yards on 12 plays before the Brookwood defense kept the Comets out of the end zone after three tries from inside the 5. Roberto Lindsay nailed the 20-yard kick.
Brookwood kept turning to Brown, who carried the ball 15 times for 70 yards in the first half and ended the night with 125 yards on 27 carries with two scores. The sophomore led the Broncos down to the South 17 yards line on a 12-play drive. The field goal attempt sailed wide left giving South the ball with three minutes remaining in the half.
From there, Malik Brown, who entered for sophomore Josh Shim at quarterback, took over the game. The senior engineered an 80-play drive, completing both his pass attempts for 24 yards and rushing for 47 more including a six-yards touchdown run in the final minute to give the Comets a 10-7 halftime lead.
“It was a change of pace,” Small said of replacing Shim with Malik Brown. “We weren’t making plays. Malik is always prepared. He won the ball game.”
Malik Brown threw for 153 yards on 10 of 12 passing with two touchdowns and he rushed for a team-high 70 yards and another score.
South settled for a pair of field goals early in the second half before building its lead on the Malik Brown’s two touchdown passes. Keel ended the game with 108 yards on five catches.
“We had guys making plays,” Small said.
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SOUTH GWINNETT 30, BROOKWOOD 28
Brookwood70021 — 28
South Gwinnett37317 — 30
Brookwood: Jesse Brown 2 run (Brandon Morrow kick) 5:35
South Gwinnett: Roberto Lindsay 20 FG, 0:46
South Gwinnett: Malik Brown 6 run (Lindsay kick) 0:40
South Gwinnett: Lindsay 30 FG, 1:25
South Gwinnett: Lindsay 32 FG, 10:17
Brookwood: Brown 20 run (Morrow kick) 9:53
South Gwinnett: Coray Keel 70 pass from Brown (Lindsay kick) 8:54
South Gwinnett: Ian Killian 19 pass from Brown (Lindsay kick) 7:50
Brookwood: Mike Allen 17 pass from Joey McLane (Allen from McLane) 4:26
Brookwood: Allen 4 pass from McLane (conversion failed) 0:11
Brookwood ---- South Gwinnett
First downs 15 ---- 16
Rushes-yards 34-103 ---- 27-152
Passing yards 244 ---- 153
Comp-Att-Int 14-23-2 ---- 15-26-0
Fumbles-lost 2-1 ---- 2-1
Penalties-yards 8-65 ---- 5-45
RUSHING — Brookwood: Brown 27-125; Joshua Collins 1-8; DaQuan Joy 1-8; McLane 5-(-31). South Gwinnett: Brown 10-70; Trevon Vallery 11-60; Fred Langston 2-14; Davion Harris 4-8.
PASSING — Brookwood: McLane 14-23-0, 244. South Gwinnett: Brown 10-12-0, 153; Josh Shim 5-14-0, 85.
RECEIVING — Brookwood: Allen 4-76; Brown 3-69; Collins 3-46; Matthew Price 3-45; Collin Pull 1-8. South Gwinnett: Keel 5-108; Elijah Shah 3-62; Killian 3-43; Greg Hollingsworth 2-14; Langston 2-11.
HIGHLIGHTS: Brookwood vs. South Gwinnett Football
Highlights from the Brookwood vs. South Gwinnett football game on Nov. 1, 2013.