Billingsley beats Brantley to set up rematch in semifinals

Published 11:44 pm Friday, November 21, 2014

Hard run: The Brantley defense had a tough time containing Billingsley’s Derrick Dunigan (No. 5) on Friday.

Hard run: The Brantley defense had a tough time containing Billingsley’s Derrick Dunigan (No. 5) on Friday.

By Brandon Sumrall | Special to the Advertiser

Seventeen years have passed since the last time Billingsley advanced to the third round of the Class 1A state football playoffs.

In 1997, the Bears successfully advanced to the fourth round by beating Maplesville and went on to win their second state title.

Since then, Billingsley has only advanced as far as the second round two times; the last coming in 2012 when they lost at home to Brantley.

The fact that the Bears had never beaten Brantley didn’t matter to the packed crowd that lined every available portion of Mims Field on Friday night and stood with signs, artificial noise makers and anything else they thought could will their team to victory.

When the clock turned to zero, the fans and players got exactly what they hoped for: a 20-14 Billingsley win.

“Our kids played hard, they did what we told them to during the week and we made a play when we needed to make a play,” Billingsley coach Tyson McLean said. “All the credit goes to our kids; they came out and played their tails off.”

Brantley (12-1) received the opening kickoff and set up their first drive at their own 39-yard line.

Facing a third-and-15 at their own 45-yard line, the Bears defense looked poised to force Brantley into a three-and-out, but Bulldogs quarterback Jacob Free found Kaisaun Nichols down the right side for 47 yards to set up the Bulldogs with a first-and-goal at the Billingsley eight-yard line.

One play later, Jermany Salter went in from eight yards out to put the Bulldogs up 7-0.

After an early first down on their ensuing drive, the Bears were forced to punt from their own 19.

The Bulldogs started their second drive of the night from the Bears’ 41. This time, the Brantley drive stalled at the Bears’ 20, where a field goal attempt by Tanner Spivey sailed wide to the left.

Starting at their own 20-yard line, the Bears (10-2) turned to the ground game.

Billingsley rode the legs of Derrick Dunigan all the way down to Brantley’s 34, where Jaytarius Steel took the hand off from Thomas Nichols and ran 34 yards for the score.

With the two-point conversion attempt no good, the Bulldogs maintained a 7-6 lead early in the second quarter.

The ensuing Bulldogs drive looked poised to stall at the Bears’ 25, where they faced a fourth-and-15, but Free found Brandon Walker for a 25-yard touchdown pass to put Brantley up 14-6 with 7:02 left in the first half.

A Billingsley fumble at their own 39 set up the Bulldogs with a first-and-goal, but the Bears defense stood tall and forced a three-and-out.

BHS took over with 4:05 left in the second quarter at their own 21. Facing a fourth-and-seven from the Brantley 10, Nichols was flushed from the pocket and went 10 yards for the touchdown.

With Steele adding the two-point conversion, the teams went to the locker room for halftime tied at 14-all.

The Bulldogs started the second half by driving to the Bears’ 26-yard line, where a Brantley fumble bounced into the hands of a Billingsley defender.

With starting quarterback Nichols sidelined after a injury late in the first half, Dalton Davis took over under center for the Bears and led a 74-yard scoring drive that ended on a Dunigan three-yard touchdown run to bring the score to 20-14.

The ensuing Brantley possession stalled at the Bears’ 39-yard line, and after a Bulldogs punt, Billingsley took over first-and-ten at their own 25 with 8:51 to play.

Rashaud Caver would led the Bears offense out to midfield, where a third-and-10 play came up short, and the hosts were forced to punt the ball over to the Bulldogs, who took over at their own 29 with 5:46 to play.

With a third-and-11 from the Billingsley 43, Kaisaun Nichols took the handoff and coughed up the ball, which was smothered by the Bears defense.

With 3:22 to play, Billingsley took possession at their own 34.

The Bears, unable to get anything going with the possession, were forced to punt the ball away.

With 3:06 on the clock and out of timeouts, the Bulldogs took over at their own 24-yard line.

Two incompletions, a stop by Caver and a sack by the Bears defense would turn the ball over to their offense.

With just 1:44 to play and with the Bulldogs unable to stop the clock, three kneels by Davis gave the Bears the win and the right to a rematch next week with Maplesville.

The Bears will play host to the Red Devils for the right to take their playoff dreams to Jordan-Hare Stadium for the Class 1A state championship game.

Dunigan led the Bears’ ground game with 102 yards on 17 carries. Mason Friday led the Billingsley defense with 11 tackles.

Free threw for 164 yards on 15-of-29 passing with one touchdown for Brantley. Doug Salter led the Bulldogs on the ground with 50 yards on nine carries.