First home outing results in nail-biting win

Carrollton, Ga. – September 10, 2005 – It took every ounce of sweat, determination and fire West Georgia had, but the Braves held off a furious fourth-quarter rally by the Harding Bisons for a 23-21 victory in the home and Gulf South Conference opener Saturday night.

John Perkins, right (34), was all over the field for the Braves against Harding.

“I’m just as proud as I could be of the heart and determination our guys showed tonight,” said head coach Mike Ledford. “We were banged up a little, but that’s why we must have a team, and not a group of individuals. These guys came together and played great against a great football team tonight.”

The night started out great for the boys in blue, as the Braves opened up the game with a superb drive. With Abe Felix running the ball five times for 57 yards, the UWG drove from its own 19 to the Harding 33 before the march stalled.

Freshman kicker Adi Brckic stepped on the field for his first-ever kick in Grisham Stadium. His leg was true, as the 50-yard field goal sailed through the uprights for a 3-0 West Georgia lead with just under 9:00 left in the first quarter.

On the first play from scrimmage for Harding, defensive end Odell Willis batted an Adam Lybrand pass directly into the waiting hands of Jonah Katende. Katende tripped up at the Harding 15, but the Braves had the ball in great field position.

Four plays later, Felix dove in from five-yards out to give the Braves a quick 10-0 lead right out of the box.

The UWG defense allowed a Harding first down on the ensuing possession, then stiffened, forcing a punt. The Braves gained 14 yards on the first two plays of the drive before quarterback Keats Baldwin found Channing Price near the HU sideline. Price’s defender slipped down as he caught the ball and Price walked into the endzone for a 51-yard touchdown pass.

That was the bulk of the offense for the most of the night for West Georgia, as a quick and athletic linebacking crew for Harding shut down the UWG rushing attack for the next two quarters.

After halftime, the Bisons came back out fired up, scoring on the opening drive of the second half to pull within 10 points at 17-7.

The two teams exchanged possessions for teh remainder of the third quarter and the first three minutes of the fourth. But with 11:44 left in the game, the UWG defense stiffened again, stopping a Harding drive at the West Georgia 24 yard-line.

At that point, the Braves’ offensive line went to work. On six of the next eight plays, Javari Taylor ran right behind big Brandon McCloud, Joe Fowler, Maurice Dixon, Caleb Rice and Ian Lyle. On those six carries, Taylor rushed for 32 yards, including one nifty carry for two yards on 3rd-and-1 at teh harding 46.

On the play, Taylor rushed left, finding nothing. The senior spun back to his right and was hit by Harding linebacker Scott Dutile. Taylor was able to muster one more spin and dove forward for a huge first down.

On the next play, Felix came back into the game and took a toss to the right. Instead of plunging forward, the junior pulled up and lofted the ball up to a waiting Jay Holbrook at the Harding 13.

Three plays later, Felix ran roughshod over the Harding defense for an eight-yard touchdown, giving the Braves a 23-7 lead. On the extra-point, however, Brckic slipped and missed, keeping the score at 23-7.

The Bisons found new life, and Lybrand completed six passes on the following drive, marching his offense down the field for the score with 3:38 left on the clock. Lybrand and the Bisons went for two, completing a pass to David Feliciano in the front corner of the endzone to pull Harding within eight at 23-15.

West Georgia could not get a first-down on its next possession, forcing a dog-tired defense back on the field against a rejuvenated Harding offense with only 56 yards to go till paydirt.

Lybrand led his offense right back down the field, throwing short passes and chipping away at both the clock and the yards to the goal line.

With 31 seconds left in the contest, Lybrand handed the ball to Blake Smith, who plunged in from one-yard out to pull the Bisons to within two at 23-21. With Harding going for the two-point conversion, Ledford called timeout to organize the UWG defense.

When the ball was snapped, West Georgia linebacker Brandon Jamison came off the corner like a wild-man directly at Lybrand, forcing him from the pocket. Lybrand scrambled around and threw the ball just over the outstretched hands of his receiver, sending the UWG crowd and sideline into a frenzy.

After Emory Jones recovered the onside kick, Brett Yenser took a knee to give the Braves the win.

Felix was the bulk of the West Georgia offense for the second straight game, rushing 26 times for 124 yards on the night. On defense, several players stood out, including Katende and Kelvin Morris. Katende led the Braves in tackles with nine on the night and had an interception. Morris was tied for third on the evening with seven tackles, but had three tackles for a loss, a sack and one massive tackle on the Braves’ first kickoff.

West Georgia moves to 1-2 on the season, while Harding is now 2-1. The Braves head to Arkadelphia, AR, next week for a matchup with Ouachita Baptist. This game was canceled a year ago due to Hurricane Ivan.

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