On the first play of the season, Greenbrier Middle School ran what appeared to be a perfectly executed screen pass. Jamal Richard caught the ball behind the line of scrimmage, then made a move past several defenders before sprinting 70 yards for a touchdown.
Funny thing is, Tuesday night's season-opener for the Wolfpack was supposed to start a little differently.
"It was a busted play," said Richard, who admitted it was supposed to be an out route. "I called the quarterback's name and told him to pass it here. And he passed it to me."
Richard's theatrics helped Greenbrier to a 28-22 victory Tuesday night on opening day of the middle school football season in Columbia County.
Richard, who started last year as a seventh-grader, pulled off another magical feat on the Wolfpack's third play from scrimmage. After Evans' nine-play drive was stopped by an interception, Greenbrier quarterback Cal Newsome was sacked for a 10-yard loss. On second and 20, Newsome found Richard on a screen pass and, again, Richard weaved his way 85 yards for a touchdown.
"It was another busted play," Richard said with a smile.
After about six minutes, Greenbrier was ahead 14-0. Newsome had completed both of his pass attempts to Richard for 155 yards.
The Knights' second drive ended in the shadow of their own end zone. The subsequent punt -- a short line drive -- was flagged down on the fly and returned to the Evans 15-yard line. Two plays later, William Dean's 9-yard touchdown run -- and the 2-point conversion -- put the Wolfpack ahead 22-0 near the end of the first quarter.
Evans took up almost the entire second quarter on a 13-play drive, accumulating six first downs. The drive was keyed by Sanchez Sams.
The eighth-grader had 62 yards on the drive and finished with 138 yards on 20 rushes.
"I felt great, but I just wish we could've come out with a win instead of losing," Sams said.
Evans quarterback Matthew Anderson finished off that drive with a one-yard quarterback sneak for a touchdown to bring the Knights within 14 points at the half.
Because of Greenbrier's quick-strike offense, the halftime numbers featured an odd statistic. The Wolfpack scored three times but had just two first downs, while Evans had nine first-half first downs.
Greenbrier went up 28-8 with three minutes to go in the third quarter, but Evans stormed back.
Sams had a 48-yard touchdown run negated by a holding penalty, but the Knights still scored on the drive on an Anderson 2-yard plunge.
Evans then recovered an onside kick and scored on the first play -- a 35-yard touchdown pass from Anderson to Sams. However, the Wolfpack ran the clock out on its next possession for the victory.
After 7 p.m., the game clock had to run nonstop because of county rules.
"There was a curfew at 7 o'clock on Tuesdays," Evans head coach Blake Crewe said. "(Greenbrier) said they were fine playing the game. ... They could've stopped the game right there, but it shows they were in it to play. It was a class move."
As for his team, Crewe said it dug a hole too deep but did show heart in the second half.
"That's a good little squad at Greenbrier," he said. "They've got two guys who are faster than anyone on our team, and when you try to arm tackle them, it doesn't work."
While winning isn't necessarily the focus at the middle school level, Greenbrier head coach David Marshall said, it was nice to start out with a victory after the team struggled a bit last season.
"I'd be lying if I said (winning) isn't important," he said. "But it's not as important as at the high school level. ... It's important to teach the kids how to win, but there are also lessons to be learned in losing."
The Knights' Derrick Mims was the star of the fifth quarter, which is played prior to the regular game. He had touchdown runs of 29 and 23 yards as Evans took the win in what amounts to a middle school junior varsity quarter.
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