By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit
The Keith Herring era began Friday night on Brentwood High School’s football field.
Within a half-hour of his team’s 26-20 victory over Wesclin, he and a couple of janitors were the only ones left in the stadium. While talking to this reporter about the game, he paused, got quiet, looked up at the stadium lights and said, “Wow, I could just drink this in. There’s no comparison at all between this stadium and the one at Hazelwood West. We had bigger crowds there, but this is Friday night lights. You’ve got the school and the trees bordering the stadium. It’s a nice place to play and a good atmosphere.”
Herring had just won his first game as Brentwood’s coach. After road losses to Crystal City and Maplewood, the Eagles gave the year’s first home crowd plenty to cheer about. After trailing at halftime, they combined a balanced rushing attack, several big defensive stands and a thrilling fumble recovery for a touchdown to raise their record to 1-2.
After the game, Brentwood’s exuberant football team met at midfield then ran down to the south end zone where they raised their helmets to the marching band as it played.
“We’re starting a new tradition,” said Herring. “We wanted to give the band some props for supporting us. I’m just really proud of the kids. They came to fight tonight. Maybe it was the haircuts, I don’t know.”
Team members got military style haircuts last week to show unity and to recognize the 10th anniversary of 9/11, which was the following day.
“This is the best feeling I’ve had in a really long time,” said Jordan Groth, reflecting on his first win as a varsity quarterback. “I don’t really know what I can compare it to.”
“This win means a lot to us because a lot of people were doubting us, doubting our abilities,” said junior lineman David Rivera. “This is only a fraction of what we can do. We made mistakes, we didn’t play to the best of our ability, but we showed that we have the potential to do great things.”
The third quarter had its share of great things.
Trailing 14-13, Brentwood’s defense refused to give up a first down in Wesclin’s first two drives of the second half. Between those two series, the Eagles’ offense put together a 12-play 58-yard drive. It was capped by Rekardo Owens’s one-yard touchdown run for a 19-14 lead with 4:03 left in the third quarter. The all-run drive seemed to reveal that Wesclin’s defense was tiring.
“As the game went on we could tell we were wearing those guys out,” said assistant coach Robert Findley. “That’s when all those practices finally started paying off.”
Added junior Nick Featherston, “That’s our style of offense: just pound it on them and they get tired. We’re lucky that they didn’t have that deep of a bench. It’s the first time we’ve played somebody that’s smaller than us.”
Brentwood had to punt the next time it got the ball and Wesclin’s speedy Justin Lovelace returned it 76 yards to the BHS 14. But offsetting penalties brought the play back and Wesclin started on their own 19 instead. Three plays later, on third and 21 from their 7, Wesclin fumbled on an option pitchout and linebacker Tyler Jones scooped it up and ran several steps into the end zone. Caragher kicked the extra point and the Eagles led 26-14 with 11:48 left in the game.
“All week I said, ‘We’re a pressure defense, we’ve got to score,’ so that was one of our goals tonight,” said Herring. “We were getting some pressure on the quarterback, we were tagging him a little bit, and I think he was rattled and the ball was wet. Then I saw that loose ball and I knew somebody was going to scoop it up and score because that’s what we preach to them: scoop and score.”
But Wesclin wouldn’t quit. Tyler Meadows returned the kickoff all the way to the Brentwood 13.
“We had a couple of guys who were not sprinting down there,” said Herring, “and I thought, ‘This is not going to be good.’”
Sure enough, two plays later, Austin Schultz ran one yard for a touchdown to cut BHS’s lead to 26-20 with 10:58 left in the game. Mykell Hudspeth blocked the extra point attempt.
Wesclin recovered its own onside kick to take possession on the Brentwood 28 with plenty of time (10:55) to drive for the winning score. But on third and seven, Keith Haselhorst rolled left and was sacked by Jones and Keith Bowman. On fourth and 11 he was sacked again, flattened by Rivera. Brentwood took over the ball on its own 26 with 9:27 left and kept the Warriors at bay for the rest of the game.
Herring said he hopes the game teaches his players a lesson. “A game like this is like wrestling a gorilla,” he said. “You can’t stop when you’re tired, you’ve got to wait until he’s tired.”
Unlike the past two weeks, Brentwood was able to move the ball throughout the game. After falling behind 7-0 early, the Eagles tied it on Jones’s one-yard run with 2:22 left in the first quarter. The drive was sparked by Groth’s 17-yard pass to Danny Lynch and Rekardo Owens’s 50-yard sprint down the right sideline.
“The holes were just so much more open in this game,” said Lynch. “It seemed like we got positive yards on almost every play.”
Wesclin quickly regained the lead, but BHS drew to within 14-13 when Groth threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Jake Caragher with 8:38 left in the first half.
“That was my first touchdown pass ever,” said Groth. “I saw the safety come over and bite on the shallow route and Jake got behind him.”
Owens and Lynch each rushed for 135 yards. Jones ran for 77 yards and scored two touchdowns. Groth passed for 36 yards and a touchdown. Hudspeth recorded five tackles, one assist and one sack.
Sept. 16, 7 p.m. host Missouri Military Academy
Sept. 23, 7 p.m. at Cuba R-2