After Brookland Cayce’s 21-7 victory at Airport on Friday night, the winner ended the season on a high note, and the loser will play on in the Class 3A playoffs.
The Eagles (5-5, 3-2 Region 5-3A) had secured a No.2 seed before the kickoff. The Bearcats (6-4, 2-3) fell into a 3-game losing streak after a region-opening win against Aiken.
“It’s a wonder they’re not in the playoffs,” Eagles coach Kirk Burnett said. “They’ve lost some close games and we’ve won. They’re getting bigger and better up front. With those big guys, they should be in the playoffs.”
As it is, Airport will play host to a to-be-determined opponent next week in the first round.
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The Bearcats, who beat Airport 21-7 in the non-region season-opener Aug. 29, look back on three close region losses that spelled their fate this year.
“We have too good of a team to just be sitting at home in the playoffs, but for some reason two years in a row we just haven’t played to our capability,” Bearcats coach Rusty Charpia said. “But tonight they were fired up about playing.”
Three consecutive scoring drives between the teams provided the first-half fireworks Friday night.
Brookland-Cayce polished off an 80-yard scoring drive that started in a scoreless first quarter to get on the scoreboard first. Ti Myers bulled into the end zone from three yards out at the 11:14 mark of the second to put the Bearcats up 7-0.
Airport responded with an 80-yard scoring drive of its own. At the Brookland-Cayce 36-yard line, Brett Burnett hit Rosie Jenkins in the flat on the right side, and Jenkins broke a tackle at the 20 to go in for the score with 9:14 to go.
The Bearcats took a 14-7 lead on a 79-yard drive. Kozie Brown connected with Charles Balkcom for a 24-yard touchdown pass with 4:18 left.
“We wanted to air it out and throw it some like we did in practice,” Charpia said. “Tonight, Kozie just seemed to be on, and Charles has really come on in the last two games.”
Brookland-Cayce took that lead into the locker room, and added a score in the third quarter. Brown connected with Balkcom on a 73-yard catch-and-run TD with 4:48 to go in the third.
The Bearcats’ defense controlled the rest of the game, sacking Burnett four times for a loss of 37 yards. Tay Pringle came up with two sacks and Marquise Inabinet and Danny Williams added a sack apiece.
“We didn’t block them very well,” Burnett said. “We thought we hung on with them defensively, but we couldn’t block them, and when you can’t block them, you’re not going to win.”
Charpia said he hopes his team can carry the momentum of this season finale on to next year.
“We’re so close,” Charpia said. “We’re getting so many players back, I feel like this (win) will help us.”
B – Ti Myers 3 run (David Koprowski kick) 11:14
A – Rosie Jenkins 36 pass from Brett Burnett (Brady Wells kick) 9:14
B – Charles Balkcom 17 pass from Kozie Brown (Koprowski kick) 4:18
B – Balkcom 73 pass from Brown (Koprowski kick) 4:48
RUSHING – Airport, Hairston 3-3, Jackson 3-11, Earl 15-52, Burnett 5-(-48). Brookland-Cayce, Balkcom 6-55, Myers 19-61, K. Brown 6-17, C. Brown 5-33, Amaker 1-(-3).
PASSING – Airport, Burnett 23-13-0. Tucker 1-1-0. Brookland-Cayce, K. Brown 19-11-0
RECEIVING – Airport, Tucker 4-52, Hairston 2-14, Jackson 3-27, Spooner 1-(-2), Jenkins 1-36, Burnett 1-21 Wright 2-11. Brookland-Cayce, Amaker 3-43, Scott 3-34, Balkcom 4-114.