Bears survive Statesboro scare

Jordan Franklin drags down Statesboro’s quarterback as the Bears’ defense closes in.

Jordan Franklin drags down Statesboro’s quarterback as the Bears’ defense closes in.

For the second week in a row, it took an offensive drive in the final minutes of the game for the Bears to pull out a win on the road against Statesboro 35-32.

That finish was not one many saw coming when Burke County went into the half up 21-0. However, some offensives adjustments, a Blue Devil spark and possibly the Bears’ belief that the game was in the bag, led to a vastly different second half.

“I said going into the game, they were just a scary team to me because their talent is so much better than 1-4,” said Bears’ head coach, Eric Parker. “I felt like the light was going to come on and they were going to be able to take all those weapons and put it together.”

Parker said the second half was the result of two teams coming out and playing very differently than they had in the first two quarters.

“It was a combination. There were some things we didn’t do really good in the second half. There were some things, they picked it up and did better. Once that momentum swapped, we were trying to figure out a way to slow it down,” he said.

The Bears are now 5-0 for the first time since 2017. Statesboro falls to 1-4.

Burke County’s first half looked solid with the Bears leaning on their offensive leaders to rack up touchdowns. Quarterback Marshall Flowers and running backs Charlie Dorsey and A’merre Williams all had rushing touchdowns in the first two quarters. Blake Burden’s three point-after attempts were good as well.

Statesboro came out of half time looking like a different team, scoring their first touchdown early in the third quarter on a 59-yard pass reception and successful point after.

Burke County answered with Williams’ second touchdown of the night and another Burden extra point to stretch the lead back to 28-7.

That however, was when the wheels seemed to fall off for Burke County with Statesboro scoring four unanswered touchdowns, two coming off of costly mistakes by the Bears.

Dorsey had the ball stripped on a carry in Blue Devil territory that was returned deep into the red zone. That fumble led to another Blue Devil touchdown, although the extra point attempt was no good.

Minutes later, a Bears’ punt attempt was taken right off the foot of Kohen Rogers and the Statesboro defender waltzed into the end zone. The following two-point conversion failed, however.

Jordan Lovett, Statesboro’s senior running back, who the Bears had bottled up for most of the night, then scored back to back touchdowns on long runs. A successful kick but another failed two-point conversion gave Statesboro a lead of 32-28 with just over five minutes left to play.

Burke County did not buckle under the pressure, driving 67 yards for the game winning touchdown on their final possession and leaving less than a minute on the clock for Statesboro to work with.

“To our credit, defensively, the two two-point conversions we stopped were big,” Parker said. “Offensively, we were able to put together an oldfashioned Burke County drive because we ran it right at them the entire drive to end the ball game to win it.”

While he’s proud of his team’s current record, Parker admits there are still a number of things to work on as the Bears head into region 3-AAAA competition in the next half of the season.

“In the locker room after the game, you would have thought we lost the game. As coaches there were a lot of things that we could nitpick and go in today and raise sand about. It’s almost like you get the lessons of a loss without losing the game,” he said.

“At Thomson we had to hang on. Oconee, we had to put together a drive just to send it to overtime, and then win it in overtime. Then, this one, we’re cruising with a lead and they’re probably a touchdown away from just packing up and going home. And we just didn’t do it. Good teams have a way of stepping on the other team’s neck and not letting them breathe but we didn’t do that,” Parker added.

The win was another costly one as both Flowers and Rogers were injured in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Flowers finished the game, but Rogers did not return. Neither is expected to be available this week.

The Bears can thank Mother Nature for some extra time to heal up and prepare for next week’s region game against Benedictine. School officials announced Tuesday morning that the Wayne County game set for this Friday has been postponed due to the current path of Hurricane Ian as it moves toward Florida.

The storm is expected to bring damaging winds and heavy rain to parts of Georgia sometime Thursday. Parker said many southern counties have moved their games to Wednesday. The rescheduling of the Wayne County game has not yet been determined.

Burke County had 412 yards of total offense with 180 passing yards and 232 rushing yards. Statesboro had 260 total yards with 68 though the air and 192 on the ground. The Bears had 21 first downs compared to the Blue Devils’ 14.

Flowers was 14 for 21 in passing and had one rushing touchdown. Junior Jeremy Richardson led the team with four receptions for 56 yards. Dorsey had 18 carries for 135 yards and two touchdowns.

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