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Ole Brook takes down Wayne County 39-33 to move to second round of 5A playoffs

The Ole Brook Panthers are headed to the second round of the 5A playoffs after outlasting Wayne County in a bloody-knuckles football game played almost entirely on the ground.

In a quick game in which the clock was always running and touchdowns were traded like playing cards, it was Brookhaven (11-1, 7-0) who finally reached down deep and found itself on defense, chasing a fumbled snap into the end zone late to force the War Eagles quarterback to dive on the ball for safety. The two free points gave the Panthers a little cushion and possession with less than 7 minutes remaining in the game, and by the time Wayne County (6-6, 4-3) got the ball back they were out of time and forced into passing situations that were not their team’s strength. After a failed fourth-down conversion, Brookhaven kneeled out the last few seconds to win the game 39-33.

“Our guys just kept making plays. They continued to believe in each other,” said Brookhaven head coach Tommy Clopton. “This was two good teams on both sides of the ball, and they just battled. The skill players on both teams had to fight to find any holes.”

For Brookhaven, the guy finding the holes, and making the holes where there were none, was senior running back Damarrell Legget, who was forced to carry much of the rushing attack on his own with right-hand man J.Q. Edwards in warm-up gear on the sideline, still nursing a deep knee bruise he suffered two weeks ago in the win against South Jones.

Unofficially, Leggett carried the ball 29 times for 225 yards and four touchdowns, in the game for almost every play and spelled only when junior quarterback Sevante Quinn kept the ball. Leggett said he found the juice to keep on pounding play after play by thinking of the teammate who should have been there — Jordan Blackwell, who was killed in the Memorial Day Massacre in Lincoln County earlier this year.

“I just thought about my brother Jordan Blackwell,” Leggett said. “I just felt like I had to step up and make those plays.”

On Brookhaven’s last possession before halftime, Leggett powered into the end zone from three yards out for a score, and he and Quinn and junior Don Blandon thought about Blackwell. They knelt and bowed their heads on the black No. 18 painted in the BHS end zone in his memory, drawing a personal foul from the referee for excessive celebration.

Clopton tried to explain the situation to the lead official, but he refused to withdraw the 15-yard penalty and the Brookhaven crowd let him know what they thought about it.

On the ensuing kickoff, senior kicker Tyler Mixon nailed a high wobbler that caught the Wayne County return man off-guard, and he had to jump on the ball to keep it away from Brookhaven.

He covered it on exactly the 18-yard line, where the yard markers are painted black for Blackwell. The possession was useless for Wayne County and the alarm sounded for halftime.