Yellow Jackets Improvise – And Pick Up Biggest Regular Season Win In Years
Lee County and Scotland.
It turned out to be everything a fan would want. Two good teams playing for a #1 Seed in the State Playoffs. It was an old rivalry being renewed. The game was High School OT’s Game of the Week. The crowds turned out and saw one of the most exciting games played at Paul Gay Stadium in years.
Lee County came into the game with two consecutive losses to 4A powerhouses Pinecrest and Richmond. There was doubt on many of the message boards that the Yellow Jackets could compete with the traditional “southeastern powers” of high school football in Richmond, Scotland and Pinecrest. The first two games did nothing to erase those doubts and nearly everyone was picking Scotland to win this one….quite a few by multiple scores. More doubt crept in when it was learned before game time that starting defensive lineman Jeremiah Phillips and linebacker/tailback TJ Johnson wouldn’t dress for Friday’s game because of injury. One had to wonder how much harder the job of stopping Scotland’s ground game just became.
Scotland ran it right down Lee County’s throat on the first 3 possessions – a 5-play drive that covered 74 yards, a 5-play drive covering 65 yards, and an 8-play drive that went for 68. The Scots had rolled up 237 yards of total offense (to overcome 30 yards in penalties) and we still had over 2 minutes left in the 1st quarter. The Lee defense was on the field for 9 of the first 10 minutes of the game – as the Yellow Jackets scored from 77 yards on a 2-play drive and then returned the kickoff for a score following Scotland’s second score. At this point Scotland had two sustained drives – Lee had run only two plays from scrimmage, and we were tied at 14.
The Lee County defense was on the field for 33 of the 48 minutes played. When you consider that the defense normally is on the field 22-25 minutes, it was like playing 3 halves in playing Scotland. The defense bent…but it never broke, and somehow got better as the game wore on. Adjustments were made and players stepped up and made plays at the right time. Scotland had only 110 yards of offense in the 2nd half and two second half interceptions were key. But Lee seemed to want it more at the end and the Lee defense won it 38-31 with a Pick 6 in the final 80 seconds of the game.
BJ Brown Just Keeps Getting Better
Yellow Jacket fans don’t need to go back many years to remember the high scoring Lee County offenses that had good running games that were shut down in the playoffs by good defensive teams. The State Championship in 2019 is the most recent as 2,000-yard rusher AJ Boulware was unable to break loose against Weddington in the title game. Against two of the better run defenses in the East, sophomore running back BJ Brown has turned some heads – as he rushed for 118 yards against Richmond and went off for 191 against Scotland County. Brown is now at 808 yards and counting on the season – and with the Yellow Jackets securely in the postseason, we should see Brown over the 1,000 yard mark. But if you attended either of the last two games, you also saw Brown return a kickoff for 88 yards against the Raiders and then a 72-yarder against the Scots.
Brown’s kickoff return against Richmond started at the 12-yard line on the far side of the field. After heading upfield for a few yards, Brown cut across to the near sideline, then down the sideline for the score. All total he probably ran 130 yards to get in from 88 as he weaved through the Raider kickoff team. The return against Scotland may have been more impressive. After a high short pooch kick that was coming down just past the Jacket 30 – and in a crowd that included the coverage team – Brown spun a 360 to elude a tackler, shot through two would-be arm tackles and again…outraced 11 players to the goal line.
It was obvious (at least to my eye) that after an impressive game by Lee QB Will Patterson at Pinecrest (26 of 28 passing), that the Raiders & Scotland both concentrated on stopping the Lee passing game and in particular the receiver “bubble screens” that has become an integral part of Yellow Jacket football. Richmond was successful and Scotland was able to slow the Jacket passing game down – except for the 77-yard screen to Tyric McKendall for the Jackets first score. What Scotland didn’t expect was BJ Brown, who averaged nearly 9 yards per carry Friday night and kept the Jackets in the game for the most part until the defense could finish the job at the end.
Big Moment in the Game
Lee County did a great job answering Scotland’s scores in the first half of Friday’s game. A 77-yard reception by McKendall was sensational – only to be outdone by Brown’s kickoff return. Kendall Morris would fight hard to score from 10 yards out to tie the score at 21 – but there was no bigger answer by the Yellow Jackets than at the final buzzer of the first half. Scotland had just kicked a 27-yard FG with only :19 seconds left on the clock. Scotland kicked off with a high short kick with Lee’s JoJo Jennings waiting for a fair catch. But Scotland hit Jennings before the ball arrived and the personal foul penalty put the Jackets in Scotland territory. A 19-yard run by Brown and a 5-yard penalty inched the Yellow Jackets close enough for Kennedy Hernandez to kick a 43-yarder to tie the score at 24-all as time expired. It was a huge momentum swing to Lee County and set up the 2nd half.