Brentwood leads in first half but succumbs to passing game
By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit
The Eagle has landed, in flames.
The Brentwood High School football team crashed on Friday, ending its season with a 64-38 loss to Lutheran North in the Class 2 District 5 championship at BHS.
For players and coaches the defeat was hard to stomach not only because it snapped a 10-game win streak dating back to August. It also marked a missed opportunity to break the now four-season-long stretch of 10-1 campaigns that have ended without a district title. Head coach Keith Herring called it “a hump.”
It also hurt that the Eagles had led for most of the first half and were down by only 7 at halftime. The Crusaders took control with two quick touchdowns in the first 3 minutes of the second half and BHS never again trailed by less than 13.
“In the third quarter we came out dry,” said Brentwood senior lineman Demetrius Graves. “They scored pretty quickly and it started going downhill from then.”
Said junior Luke Tilton, “In the first half we were playing rock solid football, driving the ball down the field. We were putting in 100 percent. I don’t know what happened but in the second half it fell apart.”
“We were moving the ball and I was feeling good, confident at halftime,” said senior Jacob Clay. “But we just kind of stopped. I don’t know what the deal was.”
Brentwood offensive coordinator Robert Findley wasn’t as mystified about what happened. He knew the Eagles had simply failed to stop the Crusaders’ passing game. Quarterback Aqeel Glass threw 23 times for 244 yards and four touchdowns. His favorite target was Cameron Russell-Clemons, who caught six for 143 yards, raising his season total to 1,168 yards, tops in the St. Louis area. Brandon Sumrall caught four for 79 yards. All that against a group of mostly young defensive backs.
“We know where we’re weak at and they exposed it,” said Findley. “All you can do is try to slow him [Russell-Clemons] down and minimize some of the looks. But they have offensive formations where you just can’t help, you can’t.”
Junior defensive back Kaylon Jenkins was charged with the daunting task of covering Russell-Clemons one on one. Though he had one interception and perhaps knew he had gotten little help from his team’s pass rush (protected by an immense line, Glass was never sacked), Jenkins harshly criticized himself afterward.
“I feel like I let my team down,” he said quietly in the locker room. “I guess I was a little nervous coming in; I knew he was good.”
Running game clicks early
The first half was full of thrilling plays and defensive stands by both teams. The Eagles punted on their first possession, Russell-Clemons mishandled the catch and Justice Bratcher recovered the ball at the Lutheran North 1-yard line.
“He called a fair catch and he dropped it and it hit off my foot and I recovered it,” said Harris.
BHS failed to score in four tries and a false-start penalty, and the Crusaders took over on downs. They slowly marched the ball to the Brentwood 14 but the Eagles stopped them on fourth and 2.
The Eagles’ running game suddenly started clicking and they drove 88 yards, making it 8-0 on Jacob Clay’s 28-yard run and 2-point conversion run.
“We knew we had to pass early so they wouldn’t stack the box,” said Findley. “We achieved that on the first drive by passing on the second play. Usually we don’t pass until the third drive. The pass helped them put only four in the box so we were able to open up some of those gaps.”
Big plays from Harris
Lutheran North quickly tied it in the second quarter, but on the kickoff Harris returned it up the middle and ran 75 yards for a 14-8 lead.
“The hole was wide open,” Harris said.
The Crusaders quickly countered with Glass’s 63-yard touchdown pass to Russell-Clemons to lead 15-14. But Harris once again found an opening on the kickoff return and got the ball to the Lutheran North 47. Three plays later, Clay scored on an 8-yard run then caught Skylar Sappington’s 2-point conversion pass to lead 22-15 early in the second quarter.
Harris intercepted a pass on the Crusaders’ next play, but the Eagles’ running game suddenly stalled and they punted. Lutheran North scored eight plays later, tied it with an extra point and would never again trail.
On the Eagles’ next possession, Clay ran the ball four times in a row but was stopped on fourth and 1 near midfield. Lutheran North mixed pass and run to move the ball to the BHS 4. The Eagles then protected the goal line from a powerhouse offense for four plays before Glass finally scored to take the lead for good.
Lutheran North outgained Brentwood 588 yards to 353.
“Our offensive line did a great job,” said Findley. “We took the line aspect out of the game. So their skill guys were just better than ours tonight. They outsized us big time but we handled them. We’re a physical football team and unfortunately the refs kind of took that away from us. I guess we were too physical. We’ll be playing flag football here before you know it.”
Another milestone for Clay
For Brentwood fans one of the saddest aspects of the game was that it was Jacob Clay’s last. The senior rushed for 213 yards to end one of the most successful careers ever for a BHS football player. Besides holding several school records for rushing and scoring, his four TDs on Friday raised his career total to 107, tying the St. Louis area’s all-time leader Montee Ball, who played for Timberland from 2006-09.
“Reaching 107 doesn’t feel that good right now,” said Clay in the locker room afterwards, “but it probably will in a couple months or so.”
“He’s a special guy,” Herring said of Clay. “He works hard, loves the weight room. If you really think about it, we got spoiled with him. We knew he’d score four a night at least. But man, 107 touchdowns, that’s amazing. He’s in some really good company there.”
‘Like a death almost’
Herring sat in his office with his assistant coaches after all the players had left on Friday. They seemed to be lingering, not eager to leave and admit the season was over.
“I’m so blessed to have these guys as coaches,” he said. “We can sit up here and joke, we love each other, it’s a family. That’s the thing that hurts the most. For every football team but one it ends on a bad note. The thing that’s bad is that it’s over. It’s like a bunch of friends and all of a sudden one night we say, ‘We’re not hanging out anymore.’ It’s like a death almost.”
But a few minutes earlier Luke Tilton, a junior, was packing his belongings from his locker. He looked tired, dirty and sweaty from the game but there was a light in his eyes and excitement in his voice.
“We played a good season but I’m ready for next year,” he said. “I’m already in the next mindset. Next year I’ll be a senior and it’s going to be my time.”
Lutheran SC (8-4): 00-29-21-14 — 64
Brentwood (10-1): 08-14-08-08 — 38
First-quarter scoring, key plays
Brentwood: Jacob Clay 28-yard run; Clay run
Score: 8-0, 1:15
Key plays: Lutheran’s personal-foul penalty; Clay’s 32-yard run.
Clay: “The power [running off tackle] was working good and it was fun being able to run it down their throats.”
Second-quarter scoring, key plays
Lutheran North: Cameron Russell-Clemons 8-yard pass from Aqeel Glass; Glass run
Score: 8-8, 10:56
Key plays: Brandon Sumrall’s 30-yard gain on a pass from Glass; Brentwood’s personal-foul penalty.
Brentwood: Justice Harris 75-yard kickoff return; run failed
Score: 14-8, 10:45
Harris: “The hole was wide open. The kicker stayed back and, like coach said, just trust your speed, so I did. I ran outside and took it to the house.”
Lutheran North: Cameron Russell-Clemons 63-yard pass from Aqeel Glass; Tim Branneky kick
Score: 14-15, 10:25
Brentwood: Jacob Clay 8-yard run; Clay pass from Skylar Sappington
Score: 22-15, 9:32
Key plays: Justice Harris’s 38-yard kickoff return to the Lutheran 47; Kaylon Jenkins’s 36-yard gain on a pass from Sappington, which included a late-hit penalty.
Lutheran North: Donovan Marshall 5-yard run; Tim Branneky kick
Score: 22-22, 5:10
Key plays: Brandon Sumrall’s 27-yard gain on a pass from Aqeel Glass; Marshall’s runs of 22 and 15 yards.
Lutheran North: Aqeel Glass 1-yard run; Tim Branneky kick
Key plays: Cameron Russell-Clemons’s 39-yard gain on a pass from Glass; Brentwood’s late-hit penalty.
Third-quarter scoring, key plays
Lutheran North: Jordan Sommerville 15-yard pass from Aqeel Glass; Tim Branneky kick
Score: 22-36, 10:40
Key play: Cameron Russell-Clemons’s 15-yard gain on a pass from Glass.
Lutheran North: Cortez Simmons 7-yard run; Tim Branneky kick
Score: 22-43, 9:23
Key play: Dulani Evans’s recovery of a Brentwood fumble and 45-yard return to the Brentwood 7-yard line.
Demetrius Graves: “In the third quarter we came out dry. They scored pretty quickly and it started going downhill.”
Brentwood: Jacob Clay 42-yard run; Clay pass from Skylar Sappington
Score: 30-43, 7:41
Key play: Clay’s 14-yard run.
Lutheran North: Aqeel Glass 7-yard pass from Cortez Simmons; Tim Branneky kick
Score: 30-50, 3:42
Key plays: Cameron Russell-Clemons’s 12-yard gain on a pass from Glass on third and 8; Donovan Marshall’s 10-yard run.
Fourth-quarter scoring, key plays
Lutheran North: Martize Jenkins 41-yard run; Tim Branneky kick
Score: 30-57, 11:52
Key play: Donovan Marshall’s 9-yard run.
Brentwood: Jacob Clay 2-yard run; Skylar Sappington pass to Joe Clay
Score: 38-57, 5:45
Key plays: Sappington’s recovery of a Lutheran North fumble at the Brentwood 45; Luke Tilton’s 42-yard gain on a pass from Sappington.
Lutheran North: Martize Jenkins 4-yard run; Tim Branneky kick
Score: 38-64, 4:15
Key plays: Jenkins’s 44-yard run.
Brentwood statistical leaders vs. Lutheran North
Rushing: Jacob Clay 24-213; Kaylon Jenkins 7-36
Passing: Skylar Sappington, 6 for 11 for 85 yards, no TDs, 2 interceptions
Receiving: Luke Tilton 1-43; Jenkins 2-30; Jacob Clay 3-9
Kickoff returns: Justice Harris 2-113
Interceptions: Harris 1; Jenkins 1
Fumble recoveries: Harris 1; Sappington 1
Tackles/assists: Corey Carroll 16, Joe Clay 15, Demetrius Graves 14, Justin Shipley 13, Jacob Clay 9, Sappington 7, Brian Hutton 7, Harris 5, Jenkins 3, Jordon Tate 3, Stephen Suntrup Jr. 3, Luke Tilton 2, Tayveon Brown 2, Daniel Neal 1
Lutheran North statistical leaders vs. Brentwood
Rushing: Martize Jenkins 12-190; Donovan Marshall 25-125
Passing: Aqeel Glass, 14 for 23 for 244 yards, 4 TDs, 2 interceptions
Receiving: Cameron Russell-Clemons 6-143; Brandon Sumrall 4-79
Kickoff returns: Jordan Sommerville 4-40
Interceptions: Russell-Clemons 2
Fumble recoveries: Dulani Evans 1
Tackles/assists: Isaiah Azubuike 7, Isaac Glenn 6, David Knox 6, Josh Robinson 6
Brentwood’s St. Louis area stat leaders as of Nov. 8
Compiled from http://www.stlhighschoolsports.com
Jacob Clay: 1st, scoring, 268 points; 2nd, rushing, 1,971 yards; 3rd, total yards, 2,129.
Skylar Sappington: 1st, passing ratio, 183.094; 5th, fumble recoveries, 4; 17th, punting average, 42.33 yards.
Justice Harris: 2nd, interceptions, 6; 5th, fumble recoveries, 4; 6th, return yards, 578; 14th, kickoff return average, 41.7 yards.
Kaylon Jenkins: 2nd, interceptions, 6; 3rd, kickoff return average, 53 yards, 19th, punt return average, 28.33 yards.
Brian Hutton: 1st, QB sacks, 19; 2nd, fumble recoveries, 5.
Joe Clay: 12th, total tackles/assists, 132; 15th, assists, 56; 24th, solo tackles, 76.
Brentwood’s 2015 Final Results (10-1)
Beat Crystal City 58-6
Beat JFK 54-18
Beat Sumner 55-6
Beat Orchard Farm 39-7
Beat Cuba 53-0
Beat Principia 52-0
Beat Lift for Life 60-12
Beat Liberty-Wentzville 53-8
Beat Cleveland NJROTC 57-0
Semifinal: beat Lutheran St. Charles 46-0
Final: lost to Lutheran North 64-38
Lutheran North 2015 schedule (8-4)
Lost to Clayton 29-21
Lost to SLUH 48-13
Lost to Westminster 35-6
Beat Priory 50-0
Lost to John Burroughs 53-12
Beat Lutheran South 72-65
Beat MICDS 33-21
Beat Trinity 40-14
Beat St. Mary’s 69-19
Beat Northwest Academy 72-0
Semifinal: beat Hermann 56-22
Final: beat Brentwood 64-38
Class 2 state tournament
Quarterfinal: Nov. 14 vs. Palmyra