Brantley bumps Linden from playoffs

LINDEN — Linden ran 30 more plays than Brantley in game’s opening half and hung 14 second quarter points on the board before getting shut out in the game’s final two quarters during a 20-14 quarterfinal loss Friday night.

After tallying only four yards on eight plays in the game’s opening two quarters, Brantley found life on a 52-yard drive in the third quarters. The Bulldogs ignited the march with a 40-yard strike to Otis Guice on the first play of the possession, moving the ball down to the Patriot 12. Three straight Andrew Parker runs covered the remaining distance as the junior tailback culminated the drive with a two-yard scoring plunge. Andrew Lowery then tied the game on a bootleg to the left, crossing over the goal line just before being knocked back by a Linden defender.

On the ensuing Linden possession, the Patriots attempted a run on Fourth and 3 from the Brantley 46. A measurement put Linden an inch shy of the conversion, handing the ball back to Brantley.

The Bulldogs answered with a 56-yard march that lasted 15 plays including 12 carries by Parker. With 6:09 to go in the game, Parker punched it in from three yards out to give Brantley a 20-14 lead.

“He’s our go-to back, has been that all year,” Brantley head coach David Lowery said. “When the game is on the line, you’ve got to give it to your best player. That’s what we did.”

Linden appeared poised to answer before a Braxton Barnes interception gave Brantley the ball back with 3:56 to play. The Patriots defense answered the call, forcing a punt that would roll all the way to the Linden 5 with 2:49 to play.

The Patriots extended the drive once with a 17-yard pass to Marquise Shelton on a Fourth and 17 call.

Six plays later, Linden faced a Fourth and 2 from the Brantley 30. The Patriots converted on the run but watched time expire before they could snap the ball again.

Linden opened the game hot when Kynard Craig picked off a pass on the third play from scrimmage. The Patriots drove the ball to the Brantley 3 before turning it over on downs. A shanked Bulldog punt then set Linden up 19 yards from paydirt before the Pats missed a 35-yard field goal attempt.

“First half we had some opportunities to finish some drives. I thought we left some things out there in the first half,” Linden coach Andro Williams said. “I’m real proud of our kids for their effort and what they brought to the table as a whole. I thought we had a great plan going in. I just think in the second half they found a little niche. They found a way to keep the ball away from us offensively.”

Linden finally cashed in on a nine-play drive that covered 48 yards and ended with a one-yard scoring run by Anthony Robinson.

Brantley wasted little time answering as Guice took the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for a score before a missed extra point left Linden up 7-6.

The Patriots then went 92 yards on 15 plays to take a halftime lead when Craigh hauled in a five-yard pass from Robinson with 7.5 seconds to go in the second quarter.

Parker led Brantley with 22 carries for 69 yards. Shelton paced all rushers with 79 yards on the ground. Robinson added 75.

The loss caps a 11-2 season for the Patriots.

“It was a great year. These guys – I hate to use the word ‘overachieved’ – but this is a bunch that lost seven out of eight guys up front,” Williams said. “They had to come back and go into football games with a lot of young faces and I thought we responded well.”

Brantley (13-0) advances to the state semi-finals to the semi-finals next week.