That saying came to life for the J.I. Burton football team in Saturday’s Region 1D semifinal game against Patrick Henry at Emory & Henry College.
The Raiders (9-3) saw their season come to an end with a 61-36 loss to the Rebels (11-1).
Three critical turnovers in the first half, three offsides penalties on fourth-and-short for Patrick Henry, and the three-headed rushing monster of Cody Smith, Zack Brown and Dakota Rector sealed Burton’s fate in the offensive showcase.
“We really let it get away from us early with three or four plays in the first half,” Burton coach Jim Adams said. “Those plays were catastrophic to us, and we never really recovered.
“Offensively, we played well and the defense played fine, but they didn’t execute. We’re so daggone young that we don’t understand technique and leverage yet and until we do, we’re going to struggle on defense.”
The Raiders’ day started poorly when they fumbled the opening kickoff to give Patrick Henry a short field. Rector punched it in five plays later for the first of his three rushing scores. He also threw a 38-yard touchdown pass in the second half.
Norton answered on the subsequent drive when Najee Steele scampered 19 yards to the end zone. The Raiders got the 2-point conversion for an 8-6 lead, and the shootout was on.
The Rebels countered with a 13-play, 70-yard drive that culminated in Smith’s 2-yard touchdown.
On Burton’s next possession, quarterback Houston Thacker’s pass bounced off a receiver’s hand and into the hands of the speedy Smith, who took the interception back 35 yards for a score. The Rebels were out to a 20-8 lead not even halfway through the second quarter.
Burton had to punt on its next possession, and Patrick Henry put more points on the board with a 1-yard TD by Brown.
Then turnover trouble struck the Raiders once more when they fumbled the ensuing kickoff to again give the Rebels a short field. Another Rector score was the result.
A sustained Burton drive ended with Thacker’s scoring pass to Tyrell Ingram from 30 yards out, but toward the end of the second quarter, the Rebels got the backbreaker. Brown returned a kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown and Patrick Henry led 39-14 at halftime.
BY THE NUMBERS
Thacker finished 21-of-38 passing for 298 yards and four touchdowns. Three of the scores went to Derrick Allen, who totaled eight catches for 150 yards.
Smith closed his day with 154 yards on 23 carries and Brown rushed 17 times for 145 yards and two scores.
The teams combined for over 800 yards of offense and north of 450 rushing yards. The Raiders actually outgained the Rebels from scrimmage, but a few plays turned the tide of what was an entertaining game.
“We’re not fancy, but we executed today and did what we had to do,” Patrick Henry coach Mark Palmer said. “It’s really tough to defend with pulling big linemen and eight men blocking in front of our backs, including the quarterback being the lead blocker. Those guys have great vision.”
The Rebels hit the road next week for a Hogoheegee District rematch with unbeaten Chilhowie, which steamrolled Grundy 69-14 on Friday night.
“Chilhowie is a good team and they’re very well coached. We played them over there before and they handled us by three touchdowns,” Palmer said. “I’m not sure how much we can improve over three weeks, but I do know that our young men will show up.”