Greenbrier Middle School football coach Jody Hilley didn't lose his head, so now he's going to lose his hair.
Hilley had promised to shave his head if the Wolfpack went undefeated this season, and Greenbrier's record stood at 5-0 entering Tuesday's final game at Evans Middle School.
The Pack erased an early deficit, thanks in part to inspired play-calling by Hilley, to post a 22-6 victory and complete a perfect season.
The Knights were intent on being the spoiler and held a 6-0 lead as the clock wound down in the first half. Greenbrier managed a touchdown as time expired, but the score was nullified by a penalty.
The half can't end on an accepted penalty, so after being backed up to the 5 yard line, Greenbrier had one more shot at the end zone.
Hilley didn't push the panic button - he went to his bag of tricks and called a gadget play. Quarterback Charlie Kupar handed off to Christopher Johnson, sped to the left corner of the end zone and caught Johnson's pass for a touchdown. It was the second pass Greenbrier had completed all season.
''I watched their ends the whole first half and they would never trail behind the line of scrimmage," Hilley said. ''I thought this was the perfect time to pull it out. If it's going to work, it's going to work right now."
The ''quarterback throw-back" play tied the game and gave Greenbrier momentum for the second half. The Pack proceeded to dominate the contest and cap the first unbeaten and untied campaign by a Columbia County middle school football team since 1997.
''At the beginning of the season, coach Hilley told us we'd be the smallest team in the league, but that he would make us the best," Kupar said. ''We conditioned hard and that's why we were a second-half team."
Greenbrier's trademark was pouring it on late. The Pack outscored opponents 134-12 this season, tallying most of their touchdowns after halftime.
''What really pulled us together is that we played by heart, not ability and strength," Tanner White said. ''Everybody played as a team."
At Evans Middle School, the Knights celebrated homecoming and seemed poised to ruin Greenbrier's party.
On the first play from scrimmage, Jason Ayers broke off a 24-yard run to show that the Knights meant business. In the second quarter, quarterback Josh McDaniel hit Wes Baxter for a 20-yard gain, which gave Evans first and goal.
The completion was costly - McDaniel went down with a broken ankle.
Ayers then took a toss-sweep and raced across the goal line as Greenbrier allowed a rushing touchdown for the first time this season.
The second half was all Greenbrier. Pack nose guard White made key tackles and recovered a fumble, linebacker and fullback Erik Smith contributed on both sides of the ball, and Johnson intercepted a pass.
Greenbrier took the lead when Andrew Gaskins tallied a 37-yard touchdown. The inside-reverse surprised the Knights, as Gaskins sped down the sidelines untouched. Smith tacked on a two-point conversion run to make it 14-6. The Pack put the game away in the fourth quarter on a 15-yard touchdown reception by Shad Harris.
While the Pack was celebrating perfection, Evans Middle School coach Carter Morris dreamed of what might have been.
''We got every bad break we could get," he said. ''It seemed like every game we had this year we lost a quarterback. Legitimately, without the injuries we could have been the undefeated team."
Evans finished with a 3-3 record, which was a good turnaround - the Knights were winless last season.
''The kids played their hearts out," Morris said. ''I think the future of Columbia County football is in great shape when these kids get to high school."
In other middle school action Tuesday, Lakeside beat Riverside 34-14 at the Brierpatch. The win gave the Panthers a final record of 5-1, while the Eagles finished at 0-5-1. At Columbia Middle School, the Raiders (1-4-1) finally broke through with a 14-6 win over Harlem (2-4).
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