Bulldogs display resilience despite loss

Published 6:58 pm Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Friday night lights illuminated the town of Brantley as football fever took hold, with the Brantley Bulldogs hosting the Elba Tigers in what was one of the biggest games of the regular season for both teams. 

The Tigers defeated Brantley 48-0 and head coach Roland Jones Jr., though disheartened by the loss, emphasized the growth potential of his young Brantley team, consisting primarily of sophomores and a few freshmen. 

“Our numbers are down from what we are used to having, so these guys know that they must fill a lot of roles on the team,” Jones said. “There is no doubt in my mind that if this group keeps working hard, they will have a great opportunity to be successful on and off the field.”

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Elba entered the game as the top-ranked Class 1A team, while Brantley held the fifth spot in rankings. As the captains for the Bulldogs – Treshaun Brooks, Thomas Williamson, Asa Blackmon and Romeo Presseley – took the field for the coin toss, anticipation hung in the air. Elba won the toss and opted to receive. 

The game got off to a dramatic start when Elba’s first touchdown attempt was marred by a holding penalty, pushing them back to first and 20 on Brantley’s 40-yard line. However, Elba’s #2 Alvin Henderson eluded three tacklers, coming tantalizingly close to a touchdown before being pushed out of bounds at the 1-yard line. The next snap saw Elba successfully crossing into the endzone, securing their first touchdown of the game. The extra point was good, putting Elba ahead 7-0 with eight minutes and 28 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

Brantley’s response was swift when #10 Jatavis McMeans early broke free on the kickoff return but was caught by a shoestring tackle. This set the Bulldogs up with excellent field position on their own 45-yard line. Quarterback Jon Harper Kilcrease connected with #16 Ashton Saunders, earning Brantley a first down. Despite some promising plays, the Tigers’ defense thwarted their advances, leaving Brantley inches shy of a first down.

With five minutes and 35 seconds left in the first quarter, #5 Tre Pittman made a crucial play, securing a first down for the Bulldogs. However, despite a valiant effort, Brantley couldn’t reach the endzone, and the ball returned to the Tigers with three minutes and 55 seconds left in the quarter. Elba managed to score twice in the first quarter, making Brantley’s commendable possessions futile in the face of their opponent’s relentless offense.

The second quarter saw Elba extending their lead with #6 Jacob Atkins rushing for another touchdown. The extra point was missed, but the score stood at 13-0 with 10 minutes and 54 seconds left in the second quarter. Brantley’s attempts to rally were hampered by a chop block penalty, pushing them back 15 yards on a promising drive.

As halftime approached, the Tigers led 21-0, putting the Bulldogs in a challenging position for the remainder of the game.

The second half brought no respite for Brantley as an interception gave Elba possession, which they capitalized on by adding more points to the scoreboard. A later fumble handed the ball back to Elba, a team that only punted once during the game, demonstrating their offensive prowess.

Despite the challenging night, the Bulldogs showed resilience and a commitment to improvement. The 2023 season may be somewhat of a rebuilding phase, but the spirit of Brantley football burns brightly, promising an exciting future for this young team.

Jones acknowledged Elba’s strengths and expressed optimism about the future. 

“Alvin Henderson is a very talented football player. He’s phenomenal, one of the best I’ve seen in a long time, and I’ve been doing this for many years. We have some things we must work on and we have some players out, but that is part of football. We have to play the next man and do the things that we need to do to be successful.”

While the 30th anniversary of Brantley Bulldogs’ first state football championship in 1993 is celebrated this year, the focus remains on the future. With hard work and dedication, the Bulldogs aim to write their own chapter in the storied history of Brantley football.