Firebirds’ fourth-quarter surge locks up home playoff game
NASHVILLE – An aggressive, attacking Montgomery Central defense kept Pearl-Cohn off the scoreboard for 36 minutes Thursday evening.
The final 12 minutes belonged to Barion Brown.
His two scoring runs of 32 and 62 yards gave the Firebirds enough to ward off the visiting Indians’ upset bid, as a 16-8 victory gave Pearl-Cohn (9-1 overall, 7-1 Region 5-4A) the No. 2 seed in its region.
After the Firebird offense struggled through muddy conditions against the Indians’ defense for three quarters, Brown moved to quarterback and took the game in his own hands.
“Pretty much, when I get the ball first, a spectacular play is going to happen,” Brown said. “Either it’s me or it’s me giving it to the running back. Man, it’s just fun being at quarterback.
Brown finished with 128 rushing yards on eight carries after gaining only six yards in the first half.
“We’ve got to clean up some things,” Pearl-Cohn head coach Tony Brunetti said. “We aren’t clicking right now.”
Montgomery Central (8-2, 6-2) led 8-0 after Logan Sykes found DT Faulk for a 17-yard touchdown with 56 seconds left in the third quarter. Sykes then hit Casen Cunningham for the two-point conversion and an 8-0 lead. That drive took 14 plays and ate up 9:39 of the third quarter, though a pass interference foul on Pearl-Cohn bailed the Indians out after consecutive false starts had pushed them back into a second-and-24 situation.
Pearl-Cohn’s answer came quickly, however. A long Malachi Cromwell run on the final play of the third quarter set up Brown’s first score on the next play. A bad snap cost the Firebirds a shot at the two-point conversion.
Brown’s move to quarterback shifted the Indians’ defensive focus.
“You’re asking 16, 17, 18-year-old kids to be disciplined and read keys, and that’s really hard to do,” Montgomery Central head coach Jeff Tomlinson said. “You can preach it, preach it, preach it, but they see that eye candy in the backfield. That’s why we run the option – same thing. It forces defenses to stay disciplined.”
The Firebirds took the lead for good on a 25-yard Kamil Tanas field goal with 5:19 left.
After Brown found the end zone for the second time, Pearl-Cohn’s defense closed the game out by not allowing Montgomery Central past its own 30-yard line.
Brown threw an ill-advised pass that Ethan Turrentine intercepted with 52 seconds to play, giving the Indians some life. But that life quickly ended as Ja’quis Williams returned the favor on the next play, picking off a deep pass attempt from Sykes.
The Firebirds gained an extra home game with the victory, as they’ll host the loser of Friday’s Lexington-Jackson South Side game in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs.
“I think having one more game at home for senior night, that’s what I wanted,” Brunetti said. “We’ve got to take care of business at home.” Montgomery Central will hit the road for its playoff opener, visiting the winner of that Lexington-Jackson South Side game next Friday.
PEARL-COHN 16, MONTGOMERY CENTRAL 8
|Montgomery Central (8-2 overall, 6-2 Region 5-4A), Pearl-Cohn (9-1, 7-1)||1st||2nd||3rd||4th||Final|
M – DT Faulk 17 pass from Logan Sykes, 0:56. (Casen Cunningham pass from Sykes).
P – Barion Brown 32 run, 11:47. Run failed.
P – Kamil Tanas 25 field goal.
P – Brown 62 run, 3:41. Tanas kick.