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Brookhaven bags homecoming victory

Quarterback Billy Williams provided some homecoming heroicsFriday night and sparked the Brookhaven Panthers to a 20-6 triumphover the Terry Bulldogs. Williams passed 9 yards to tight endPhillip Tobias for one touchdown and ran 12 yards for another onrain-soaked King Field.

A large crowd watched outside linebacker Lakendrick Maxwell addhis name to the list of Brookhaven’s homecoming heroes as hereturned a fumble 42 yards for an insurance touchdown, helping thePanthers secure a berth in the Class 4A state playoffs.

Brookhaven (5-2, 3-1) still has Region 6-4A games with SouthPike and Lawrence County remaining on the menu. Under the new stateplayoff format, the top four teams from each division will advance.The top two teams will have the advantage of hosting opening roundgames on Nov. 9.

“I’m glad we made the playoffs,” said Brookhaven head coachAndrew Hickman. He was busy dishing out large chunks of ahomecoming cake to his players after the game.

“We can control our own destiny,” Hickman said. “We could stillwin the division if we beat South Pike and Lawrence County.”

South Pike (6-1, 3-0), under the direction of former BHS headcoach Greg Wall, invades King Field Friday night.

Hickman was disappointed by his team’s first half performanceagainst Terry (3-4, 0-3). The Bulldawgs had produced a strongrushing attack, led by tailback Robert Fortson who rushed for 154yards and 1 touchdown. Terry was minus starting senior quarterbackToronto Knight due to a knee injury and sophomore Josh Butler (5-6,120) was pressed into action.

Brookhaven was minus five starters Friday night. CornerbackMarcus Foxworth was sidelined by an ankle injury. Kickoffspecialist Justin Windham was injured in an auto accident andmissed the game. Another starter was suspended for disciplinaryreasons and two more were dismissed from the team last week.

Williams, a senior, said the Panthers became more focused athalftime. “We were making too many mistakes the first half.

“I want to give special thanks to my offensive line and thedefense,” Williams pointed out. “And I want to thank Daniel (Gates)on that kickoff.”

Brookhaven had just pulled ahead 13-6 on a 12-yard bootleg runby Williams. On the ensuing kickoff, Terry’s Keoni Gray fieldedGates’ kickoff at the 7-yard line. Gray broke into the clear nearmidfield and Gates made the touchdown-saving tackle, drawing a roarof approval from the fans in the stands.

Early in the fourth quarter, Fortson fumbled after being hit bytackle Julius Lloyd. Maxwell scooped up the football and raced forthe touchdown. Gates kicked the PAT and the Panthers led 20-6 with10:07 left in the game.

“My tackles (Julius Lloyd and Brian Mitchell) caused the fumbleand I took it all the way to the house,” said Maxwell. “We needed abig play an I did it.”

Maxwell said he and his teammates were going to enjoy thehomecoming dance after a strong second half performance. “Coachtold us to bow our necks at halftime and play hard.”

The Panthers were nursing a narrow 7-6 halftime lead. Tobias hadscored on a 9-yard post pattern. Gates booted the extra point with1:03 left in the first half.

Terry had amassed 119 yards rushing the football in the firsthalf. They only managed 62 yards rushing the second half.

Panther senior defensive end Brian Mitchell said it was a matterof the team regrouping and coming together at halftime. “We alwaysseem to do better the second half. We need to play the first halflike we do the second half.”

The Bulldogs capitalized on a second-quarter interception byJamie Mack to launch their only scoring drive of the game. Theywent 59 yards in 13 plays, with Fortson scoring over left tacklefrom 4 yards out.

Nick Downs blocked the extra point kick by Josh Sheppard.Maxwell also recovered two fumbles. Strong safety Emmanuel Perkinsled the Brookhaven defense with 12 tackles, including 7 solo stops,2 of them for losses. Linebacker Belma Cager made 11 tackles.

Terry head coach David Virgil found no comfort in a strongeffort by his team. “I thought our kids played hard. We wanted tocontrol the ball.

“Their quarterback (Williams) does a good job,” Virgil added.Virgil said that besides Knight being sidelined, his team also wasminus starting center Chad Kitchens who had a virus.

Terry tackles Lawrence County Friday night.