West Blocton Puts New Billy Joe Young Field Party on Hold
Brookwood High School's brand-new Billy Joe Young Field, serving as the football program's new home to the tune of $18 million, held its first regular season game on Friday night. It was a forgettable affair at best for the home squad. The visiting West Blocton Tigers, led by running back Nate Barron, decided that the night was not complete with just the torrential downpour that spanned much of the first half and decided to rain on the Panthers' parade with a 34-12 win.
Barron was far and away the game's MVP, totaling three touchdowns. One came through the air, one was the result of classic ground-and-pound and one was a 34-yard burst. All four Tiger touchdowns came in the second half. Brookwood took a 12-3 lead into the locker room, to the delight of a community that showed up and showed out.
"Nate is a football player," West Blocton head coach Dre'Mail King said with emphasis as the Tigers' elated student section chanted the tailback's name. "He's a kid that's gonna put on his work hat every time he come[s] to the field. I'm so happy for him because last year was a tough year for him, coming into the school and trying to find his own place. But to see that kid and all the kids support him, to see that everybody just trusts him with the ball in his hands, it's a great thing for our team."
The first half brought little to write home about for the West Blocton offense, with Barron's use as a workhorse being the point of consistency. The Tigers pounded the rock with him. He took some tough blows, but always got up, and never ceased to run hard. King said the weather affected his team's ability to pass during the first 24 minutes. The passing game came alive in the second half.
"We wanted to come in with the game plan to throw, but the weather kinda prevented us from doing that early," King said. "However, as we came out in the second half, we had opportunities to do that, and we were able to be successful with it."
Brookwood went down 3-0 early in the second quarter after a scoreless first frame, and it seemed to light a fire under the players. Undisciplined for much of the affair, the Panthers put together a pair of solid drives that each ended in a touchdown for running back Kawann Johnson. On the first play after going down to the first score in the history of the new facility, Johnson almost took it home. He was responsible for every positive yard on what ended up as a three-play drive with a 15-yard touchdown run. His second score came from just a yard out after a rare defensive delay of game penalty.
The Panthers only scored in the first half. Following the intermission, in a game where Brookwood had more than 20 penalties, the mental errors started getting to the team in the historic game.
The highlight of Brookwood's offensive night came two plays before Johnson's second time finding paydirt in quarter number two. Quarterback Jacob Rowell scooped a low snap off the new (wet) turf at the West Blocton 30, almost got sacked, then heaved a ball to Jack Hallmark at the one-yard line. It was one of two clutch throws by both teams' signal callers. On Barron's touchdown reception, it was in a goal-to-go situation where the line of scrimmage was at the 11. Facing pressure from a Panther defense which was stout against the pass for most of the evening, quarterback Trey Lawley looked for his man and made a play. That score gave West Blocton a lead it did not surrender.
Lawley added a second score through the air before all was said and done, lofting up the dagger in the fourth quarter from the same distance to Markell O'Neil. Evan Pearson was a major player in helping Lawley open up as the game went on.
Brookwood head coach Mike Bramblett was frustrated and disappointed with his team's performance amidst the discipline issues and mental errors. There was obvious frustration by Panthers players at the Tigers players. In one particularly heated moment in the second half, a Tiger appeared to spill a cooler on the opposing sideline. Thinking this act was deliberate, a number of Panthers players were vocal to their coaches and teammates about the fact that they took issue with it. The extracurriculars throughout the night resulted in flags flying on both sides, with Brookwood getting the worst of it.
"Horrible character," Bramblett said. "I mean, embarrassing character across the board in everything that we did. We got outcoached, we got outplayed, they had better effort, they wanted it more than us. We had no character. We had absolutely nothing about us to say we should be in this game." He went on to promise that practice in the immediate future would get "very, very physical."
"We appreciate [the community]," he added. "Just hate that we did not put a better product on the field."
King did not downplay the significance of his team's rivalry win. "That means that for the rest of their life, these kids can say they're the first team that won on this field," he said.
West Blocton's start is now at 2-0, and a regional date with Bibb County awaits on the road next Friday. Brookwood (1-1) was unable to parlay last week's shutout of Holt into a major rivalry win and will face Hueytown next week.
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