Christian MaloneThe Valdosta Daily Times
Brooks County earned its first-ever victory against Valdosta on Friday night, defeating the Wildcats 28-24 at Cleveland Field at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.
Malcolm Parrish’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Deric Herring with 2:40 left in the game gave the Trojans the lead, and Herring sealed the victory by batting down a fourth down pass in the end zone with 32.4 seconds remaining.
It was a big victory for a talented Brooks County football team.
“I’m happy. We accomplished a goal. Now this is something that we can use on a regular basis, on just staying with it and fighting hard,” Brooks County head coach Maurice Freeman said. “We can use this the rest of the season to hopefully accomplish our destiny, which we hope is a state championship.”
“I think we had a great game plan, and I thought our guys stuck with it. We just hung in there,” Freeman added. “I’m very proud. They worked hard, and they did what we asked them to do.”
Valdosta had beaten Brooks County six times from 1996-2011, and also beat Quitman High 12 times from 1919-32. But on Friday night, it was the Trojans that celebrated victory.
With about 2:45 left in the game and Valdosta leading 24-21, Brooks faced fourth-and-3 from the Wildcats’ 8-yard line, and decided to try a field goal. Daniel Hodum’s 25-yard field goal attempt sailed wide of the right upright, and the kick was no good.
But after Hodum kicked the ball, a Valdosta player plowed into him and knocked him to the turf. The hit injured Hodum, who lay there for a couple of minutes, had to be carried off the field and did not return. It was a clear roughing the kicker penalty, and it gave the Trojans a first down at the 4-yard line.
Three plays later, on third-and-goal from the 4, Parrish avoided a blitzing defender, rolled right and fired a strike towards Herring in the back of the end zone. Herring, who had caught the game-winning touchdown pass against Monroe a week ago, hauled in this pass for another touchdown. Then he kicked the extra point, giving the Trojans a 28-24 lead.
Valdosta wasn’t ready to give up, though. Nelson Herring returned the ensuing kickoff to the VHS 44. Shelby Wilkes’ 14-yard pass to Malcolm Joseph put the Wildcats in Brooks territory.
Four plays later, on fourth-and-2 from the 34, Wilkes hit Joseph for eight yards. Then he connected with tight end Montrey Minto for 23 yards, down to the 9.
But Brooks wouldn’t let the ’Cats get any closer. Wilkes’ first three passes fell incomplete. Then on fourth-and-goal, Wilkes tried to hit a receiver in the end zone, but the pass was out of his reach, and Herring knocked it down to kill Valdosta’s last chance.
Parrish then kneeled twice, and the game was over.
“I think we made more big plays. I think maybe our defense was a little more stout than theirs,” Freeman said. “(We played) four complete quarters of football.”
“Brooks has got a really good football team. They really do,” Valdosta head coach Rance Gillespie said. “Coach Freeman and his kids did an outstanding job. They deserved to win that football game, and made plays that counted. As for our football team, we made enough mistakes to lose two football games. We did not play well, and it’s disappointing after we played so well last week to come back and play (like this) tonight. But that’s not to take anything away from Brooks.”
It was a back-and-forth game all night long. Neither team led by more than four points at any point in the game.
On the Wildcats’ first possession, Wilkes threw a 27-yard pass to Joseph, putting the Wildcats in the red zone. That led to Brennan Goodson’s 30-yard field goal, which gave the Wildcats a 3-0 lead.
Late in the first quarter, the Valdosta punter dropped a punt snap, then tried to run with the ball and was tackled at the 2-foot line, giving Brooks the ball 24 inches from the goal line. On the next play, Parrish dove over the goal line for the touchdown. Hodum’s extra point gave the Trojans a 7-3 lead.
With about three minutes left in the first half, Valdosta started a drive at the Brooks 44. On the first play, Nelson Herring raced 22 yards up the middle. On the next play, Herring shot up the middle again. A defender met him at the 5, but Herring shoved him aside and ran into the end zone for a touchdown, giving Valdosta a 10-7 lead.
Brooks regained the lead just as quickly. On the second play of the ensuing possession, a wide open Damian Cobb hauled in a pass from Parrish and raced 65 yards into the end zone for a touchdown, putting the Trojans ahead 14-10 at halftime.
Valdosta got the ball to start the second half, and scored quickly. Joseph’s 25-yard run moved the ball to the Trojans’ 5, and on the next play, he took the handoff, went right, broke a tackle at the 1 and went into the end zone, making it 17-14 Valdosta.
Later in the quarter, Brooks’ Exavius Medlock got a pass, ran right by the cornerback that was covering him and sprinted 65 yards to the Wildcat 22. Then Parrish found Herring for 19 yards, down to the 3. On the next play, Brandon Golden got the ball on a toss sweep going left, and ran into the end zone to put the Trojans back on top, 21-17.
Early in the fourth quarter, Valdosta went three-and-out, but caught a break when Brooks muffed a punt and a Wildcat player fell on the ball at the Trojans’ 23. Then the Wildcats caught another break when Brooks was flagged for pass interference in the end zone on third-and-7. Four plays later, on fourth-and-goal from the 7, Wilkes hit Nelson Herring in tight coverage in the end zone for the score, giving Valdosta its final lead of the game, 24-21, with 7:44 left to play.
Then it was Brooks’ turn.
Parrish moved the chains with a 16-yard pass to Sam Bradley, then found Cobb for 33 yards, down to the VHS 15. Brooks moved the ball to the 8, got a huge break when Valdosta roughed the kicker, then scored the winning touchdown.
Parrish passed for 269 yards and two touchdowns in the win. He also ran for 35 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.
Wilkes passed for 160 yards and a touchdown, but was picked off twice. Nelson Herring rushed for 83 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.