Brunswick High didn't look like a team that hasn't played football in two weeks while Camden County, in the same boat as the Pirates because of Hurricane Irma, couldn't get out of the gate early in Saturday's game in Kingsland.
The momentum shifted in the second half as the Wildcats turned an 16-point deficit into just a two-point pirate lead, but Brunswick came up with big drives in the fourth quarter to pick up its first win over Camden in 18 years, 43-27.
"It feels good because we only had two days to prepare," said Brunswick High linebacker and running back Sharrod Frazier. "When we've faced adversity, we've responded very well."
Neither team had much time to get ready for the game with both schools out all week because of the storm that brought tremendous damage to both Glynn and Camden counties. Under the circumstances, Brunswick High head coach Sean Pender was proud of the way his team played.
"You can't match the effort the guys gave today," Pender said. "That's what we need the whole time. We had a bit of a lull in the third quarter, but then we turned it around and played hard in the fourth."
Camden head coach Bob Sphire, who is introducing a new spread offense to the former run-heavy Wildcats, wouldn't use the short prep time as an excuse.
"Both teams were in the same situation," Sphire said. "It was a good opportunity to see how good of a job we've done of teaching these kids the new concepts of our system."
Having only two practices to prepare didn't bother the Pirates on their opening drive. Quarterback Jamarius Stevens hit a couple of big passes and running back Jaylen Trimmings picked up big chunks on the ground to get Brunswick into the red zone. Frazier finished off the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead.
The Pirates followed a similar formula after a Camden three-and-out. Stevens hit a couple of big passes and ran for a few big plays before Shaq Robinson's 3-yard plunge. Stevens kept his head on a failed point-after try and managed a to get a two-point conversion to make it 15-0.
"We know we can throw it, but being able to run it and stay balanced is something we want to do," Pender said.
Camden's offense sputtered in its first two drives and it's third came to a quick end when Brunswick's Tevin Small picked off Brooks Bryan to set up the Pirates' offense at the Camden 5-yard line. But Brunswick made its first big misstep on the next play when Stevens was picked off by Jeremiah Compton, who returned the interception 99 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 15-6 with 11:41 to play in the first half.
"I wasn't surprised how out of synch we were in the first half," Sphire said. "Nobody's tackled for 10 days and I thought that showed up early. You can't simulate that cleaning up your house and fixing your roof. I thought our effort was great."
Brunswick would tack on one more score before the half with Frazier and Stevens picking up big yards on the ground. A 31-yard quarterback draw put the ball at the Camden 3-yard line with Trimmings finishing the drive from there to make it 22-6 at halftime.
The Wildcats came out of the locker room like a different team. The defense held Brunswick to two three-and-outs in the third quarter. Meanwhile, the offense finally found its footing.
A 3-yard run on fourth-and-short from Logan Berryhill kept Camden's second drive of the third quarter alive, and Bryan did the rest. The quarterback made some big runs before connecting with Keion Lewis from 14 yards out to make it 22-14 after a two-point conversion.
The ground game allowed Camden to cut even deeper into Brunswick's lead. Jalen Davis broke off a 39-yard run before finishing the drive with a 5-yard touchdown dash to cut it to 22-20 early in the fourth quarter. Camden had a man open in the end zone on the two-point conversion, but Bryan's throw was just a bit high for the receiver.
Bryan's work in the second half was much different from the first, where the Brunswick defense - particularly George Mincey - put a lot of pressure on the quarterback.
"They struck us pretty good the whole game," Sphire said. "He's a tough kid. One of the things he's got to learn a little more is sometimes the better part of valor is to get down every now and then. But he doesn't seem to have that in his DNA."
After their third quarter lull, Brunswick's offense found its rhythm. A 15-yard run by Trimmings and a 15-yard pass from Stevens to Alonzo Brown had the Pirates in business in Camden territory. Frazier took the next play 32 yards to the house for a touchdown, but the play was called back because of a hold.
The penalty seemed to stall the drive, but Camden was flagged for pass interference on third-and-four from the Camden 27-yard line. The Wildcats' coaching staff vehemently disagreed with the referee's call, earning them an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The combined penalty yards put the Pirates at the Camden 7-yard line. Two plays later, Frazier capped the drive with an 11-yard touchdown run to push Brunswick's lead to 29-20.
Camden had an answer with a big play of its own. Bryan found Berryhill, who won a jump ball over a Brunswick defender, for a 46-yard touchdown on the ensuing drive to cut the lead back to two with 7:56 to play in the game.
The Pirates' offense would make sure that is as close the Wildcats would get. Stevens and Frazier alternated big passes with big runs. The Pirates faced third-and-3 from the Camden 7-yard line, but Stevens was able to get outside on the zone read for the first down. Two plays later, he dove into the end zone to push the lead to nine.
The Brunswick defense iced the game with an interception on Camden's next possession. Trimmings added a late touchdown for the final result.
"First half, the defense was lights out," Pender said. "We've got to be more consistent. We had some things go bad and we let them get back in the game in the second half. But a team coached by Coach Sphire isn't going to go away. He's got a very good coaching staff and he's going to have his boys ready to play. It's going to be a dogfight."
Stevens finished the game 16-of-23 for 229 yards and one interception to go with 54 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown. Trimmings led the rushing attack with 118 yards and two touchdowns. Frazier added 76 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in his first action of the season at running back. The highly-touted recruit is usually terrorizing opponents on the other side of the ball.
"We had a couple of guys went down, and Sharrod is starting to learn the offense," Pender said. "We know what kind of player Sharrod can be, how dynamic he is. It's just a matter of getting our more dynamic players involved in the game more."
Davis led Camden's offense with 99 rushing yards and a score. Bryan finished 10-of-13 passing for 117 yards with two touchdowns and two picks.
Brunswick (2-1) hosts South Effingham next week while Camden (2-2) travels to face McEachern.
Even though his team didn't win, Sphire said the real victory for both Brunswick and Camden was getting to play the game.
"I think both communities should be really proud of how both kids represented both communities in an adverse situation on short notice," Sphire said. "I thought they both played with a lot of class against each other. They just played a hard-fought football game."