By LEE HILLER, Journal Sports
Byrd and Captain Shreve rival each other in just about anything and everything, even when it’s a football jamboree that doesn’t go on either team’s record.
Thursday night at Independence Stadium, Shreve kicker John Chance’s 47-yard field goal on the last play gave the Gators the edge on the scoreboard 23-21 — but it is nothing more than a little bragging rights that will carry into the regular season when the teams play for real in Week 4.
“I was just really proud of our fight and how we battled the whole game,” said Shreve head coach Adam Kirby. “There were back and forth moments and our kids never quit, they played to the end. Even when we went down with 24 seconds left, our kids still believed we could win.”
Chance’s last-second kick came after Byrd seemed to secure the decision itself in the closing seconds. The Yellow Jackets tackled the Gators’ punter at his own 21-yard line with 57 seconds left. Malachi Johnson’s 13-yard run on second down gave the Jackets a first and goal at the Shreve 8. Three plays later quarterback J.D. Gallman scored on a 5-yard run and Abram Murray’s extra point with 24 seconds left gave the Jackets a 21-20 lead.
Shreve running back Jamarlon Otis scooped up a short kickoff and returned it to the Jackets’ 38 with 14 seconds left. A short pass from Quortni Beaner to Keaton Flowers and a scramble by Beaner to the 30 with three seconds left set up Chance’s kick on the final play.
“It showed us what we need to work on. Every week we come out we want to improve,” said Byrd coach Stacy Ballew. “This week everybody is talking about Byrd-Shreve but to us it wasn’t about Captain Shreve, to us It was about us and trying to get better, so we’ve got to improve special teams wise, and on offense and defense.”
Until the final minute, the second half was anti-climatic after Shreve led 20-14 in an exciting, back-and-forth first period.
The Gators celebrated on the second play of the varsity contest when Beaner hit Jordan Wiggins for a 71-yard score.
Byrd answered right away. It only needed two plays to go 41 yards on its second possession to tie the game at 7-7. Malachi Johnson ran 28 yards to set up Desmond Simmons’ 13-yard scoring run.
Shreve went back ahead as Otis started the next dive with a 35-yard run and finished it with a 21-yard score.
Byrd knotted it back up as Johnson sprinted 48 yards to cap an 80-yard drive.
The Gators needed just one play to regain the lead as Brodie Savage hit Wiggins with a short pass that he turned into an 80-yard touchdown. Chance’s extra point was no good and Shreve led 20-14.
“We’ve got to cut out the penalties — too many penalties on us — and defensively we’ve got to run to the ball and tackle well,” said Ballew. “It wasn’t so much we were out of position or anything like that. We’ve got to get everybody running to the ball and we got to make tackles. A lot of times the first guy there is not gonna make the tackle, it’s the second guy. That is what we gotta preach this week as we get ready for Pleasant Grove.”
The Yellow Jackets open the season on the road in Texarkana, Texas facing the Hawks. Captain Shreve returns to Independence Stadium Thursday to meet Loyola.