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Because it marked the start of conference play, Sept. 5 has been circled on the Grant County Middle School football Braves’ calendar since before the season began. Now that the date has passed, Coach Jamie Dalzell and his Braves can breath a little easier.
Leaving its early-season struggles behind, Grant County put together its most impressive performance of the season with a pair of conference wins over Royal Spring Middle School this week.
Grant County shut out the visiting Titans 21-0 behind a superb defensive performance in the 8th grade game, while the 7th grade Braves held off a late rally by the visitors for a 14-12 victory.
“I’m very, very pleased with our effort in both games,” said Dalzell. “We’ve been talking all season that Sept. 5 is when our conference starts and how we had to get off to a good start in conference play. And we did. I thought we played extremely well.”
In 8th grade action, the Braves jumped out to an early lead and never looked back.
Jacob Facer led the Braves’ offensive charge with a pair of touchdowns in the win, followed by Marcus Stith with a touchdown for the final score.
Dalzell, who has watched his team improve tremendously over the course of the season, was pleased with the Braves’ offense. But it was the defensive unit that really caught his eye.
“I couldn’t be happier with our defense,” he said. “I thought we played outstanding on that side of the ball. Our best game of the year.”
In the 7th grade game, Grant County took the opening kickoff and controlled the clock, allowing Royal Spring to possess the ball only 40 seconds of the entire first half. The visiting Titans had zero positive yards on three plays in those 40 seconds.
Leading 14-0, Grant County battled all the way to the final buzzer and stopped a game-tying two-point conversation attempt as time expired in the final quarter.
“We did exactly what we needed to do,” Dalzell said of his team’s ability to control the clock by possessing the ball for nearly three quarters of the game. “We understand that we are not a high-explosive offense that’s going to put big numbers on the board. But we ran the ball effectively and got a little luck with the on-side kick. And that always helps.”
With the team up 8-0, Cody Hamilton recovered an onside kick for the Braves, who took the ball and marched down the field for its second touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
Quarterback Reagan Patrick hit Seth Sutton with a touchdown pass to start the Braves’ scoring. Calean Nix ran the second one in just before the end of the half.
In both games, Grant County was at a size disadvantage against Royal Spring players. But Dalzell was happy with how his guys responded to the adversity.
“They certainly had the size advantage. But it’s pretty much what we’ve seen all year, and what we’re likely to see the rest of the year,” he said. “To overcome that, we just have to continue to take advantage of the double teams and always fight until the whistle on every play.”
Up next for the Braves is another conference matchup with Georgetown Middle School. Gametime is set for 6 p.m. on Sept. 12 for the 7th grade game, follow by the 8th grade contest at 7:30 p.m.
Dalzell, whose team faced Georgetown in 7-on-7 competitions during the summer, said he expects the Buffaloes to be both big up front, and fast coming out of the backfield.
“We’ll have to scheme to handle the speed and we’ll have to really tackle well on defense,” he said.