Offense may win football games — and it did for Peabody-Burns High School on Friday — but defense was the key for PBHS throughout the first half of play Friday night against Madison.
The drizzly, overcast homecoming matchup was a true contest of field position for the first 21 minutes of competition. The second half, however, was an explosion of PBHS offense that ended the game early 48-0.
In the first half, though, it was a battle. Five offensive series for the Warriors ended in two punts, one interception and twice giving the ball back on downs.
The flip side was that the PBHS defense stopped Madison. PBHS forced a punt on the first series, Braxton Kyle and Brooks Hodges each stopped a series with crucial fourth-down tackles, and Kevin Baatrup intercepted a pass.
With less than three minutes left in the half, the Bulldogs were on the move. The Warriors defense had forced a fourth-and-14 at their own 20-yard line. Madison went to the air and Kaden Gibson snagged the ball for the interception and set up PBHS at its own 23.
From there, the PBHS offense began warming up. Philpott finished the ensuing series with a 2-yard run through the middle of the Madison defense. A bad snap on the conversion left the score at 6-0 with under a minute in the half.
“Things go wrong, that’s just the nature of the game,” head coach David Pickens said. “Madison came into this ballgame ranked 5th in the division. Our kids were looking at this as a test. They were nervous and a little tight.”
Halftime adjustments must have calmed some nerves for the Warrior Blue. A bad Madison snap on the first play of the second half was smothered by PBHS’s Colton Terronez. While that series did not lead to points, the ensuing defensive series set up a short field for the PBHS squad.
While nothing of the eight-play series was pretty, a Kyle rush clipped the right corner of the end zone for the second score in the contest. The conversion pass failed but PBHS was up 12-0 with 5:25 left in the third quarter.
Kornelius Skotaam’s kickoff netted a touchback and Madison began at its own 15. A fumble recovery, this time by Kyle, stopped the drive and set up the next Warriors offensive series at the Madison 23-yard line.
Kyle finished the series with a 4-yard keeper for the score. A pitch to Philpott was successful and the Warriors were up 20-0.
Third quarter magic continued for the PBHS squad when Baatrup intercepted a second Bulldogs pass to set up the offense at the Madison 15. Kyle tacked on 6 on the next play with a 15-yard run. Kyle connected with Hodges in the end zone for the conversion points. With 1:37 left in the quarter, the Warriors were up 28-0.
The next scoring series started with less than 20 seconds left in the period. With three ticks off the clock in the fourth quarter, Hodges plunged through the middle for the Warriors score. A false start on the first conversion try set up a longer 2-point pass catch by Baatrup. PBHS was up 36-0.
Warriors varsity exited the contest on the next series. Quarterback Austin Reynolds guided the team from midfield on the five-play drive. Marcus Knight claimed 6 points on a 12-yard run. The Warriors were up 42-0.
Knight ended the game on the final offensive series with a 59-yard run for the score. Due to the 45 point rule, PBHS claimed the 48-0 victory with 5:54 left in the fourth quarter.
Coach Pickens praised his team in the after game huddle on the field.
“Last year when the team came back from 28 points down to win, I thought I had been a part of the best football game ever, said Pickens, “but this was the best ever.”
Later away from the huddle, Pickens continued with the praise of the team.
“They have so much talent. They make mistakes but the come back to correct them and overcome, “Pickens said.” We stopped ourselves a couple times in the first half. They kept fighting and did not quit. Madison is a good football team that came to play. Our athletes understood that and demonstrated what it takes to come out on top.”
Baatrup finished the night with two picks on the night and three receptions. He also returned three punts.
“My job is to help any way I can,” Baatrup said. “If it is picks or tackling or returns or special team play, I have to push harder to help my team. When we step on the field, our senior group is always going to put the team first. We know we are a unit and we have each other’s back, no matter what.”