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franklin county times

Returning the favor

By Staff
Mike Self FCT Sports Editor
RED BAY - Kurt Kennedy's message to Brandon Colburn was short and to the point.
After Colburn dropped a long third-down pass from Kennedy on Red Bay's first possession Friday night, the senior quarterback had some choice words for his receiver.
"Colby was kind of down on himself, and I told him, 'Colby, you're a better player than that. Keep your head up and make up for it. Make up for it,'" Kennedy said.
Evidently, the message came through loud and clear.
Colburn's 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown just before halftime turned out to be the decisive score as second-ranked Red Bay avenged heartbreaking losses from the previous two seasons with an emotional 14-12 victory over No. 6 Randolph County on a foggy night at Fred Bostick, Jr. Memorial Stadium.
The visiting Tigers (10-2) nearly forced the game into overtime after a stunning 43-yard touchdown pass with no time left on the clock, but their two-point try failed and Red Bay (12-0) advanced to face Woodland in the Class 2A quarterfinals next week.
Randolph County had eliminated Red Bay from the playoffs each of the past two years.
"You don't know how big of a monkey we just got off our back," said Red Bay coach Dale Jeffreys, who reached the 12-win plateau for the first time in his eight-year tenure with the Tigers. "[Randolph County] is the defending state champion, and they have a great football team. They've got a ton of talent and a whole lot of speed. But our guys played incredibly hard tonight. You can't understand the amount of effort our kids put into every single play."
The biggest play came with less than 30 seconds remaining in the first half. After Randolph County's Tyler Hall scored on a 3-yard run to trim Red Bay's lead to 7-6 (the extra point attempt, which proved to be crucial, was no good), Colburn fielded the ensuing kickoff inside his own 10-yard line.
"I expected them to kick it on the ground," Jeffreys said. "I thought it was kind of a lack of respect for us that they kicked it deep."
Colburn waded into a sea of bodies around the 25-yard line before bursting through the left side and into the clear.
"I got some terrific blocks on that play," said Colburn, who also returned a kick for a touchdown in the regular season finale against Muscle Shoals. "Bradley Long laid out two guys right in front of me, and even Pablo Makepeace, who's just a freshman, threw a great block. After I cut to the left, I saw nothing but green."
Colburn then turned on the jets and out-raced Randolph County's Rod Houston to the end zone to make it 14-6.
"They said No. 12 [Houston] is supposed to have 4.4 speed, but Colby left him in the dirt," said senior receiver Randy Lowery.
Colburn said that the early drop was still on his mind prior to the kick return.
"Kurt got on me pretty hard after that," Colburn said. "He told me to keep my head up and to make up for it. I was just waiting for the opportunity."
Just as crucial as Colburn's return was the play of Red Bay's defense. The Tigers turned the early momentum in their favor with a goal line stand on Randolph County's opening drive, and Lowery and Brian Humphries came up with huge second-half interceptions.
"Our defense is really coming on strong," Lowery said. "There were some worries about it early in the season, but we've just been getting better and better each week."
Jeffreys said the early goal line stand, on which Red Bay stuffed Randolph County on four plays from inside the 5-yard line, was crucial to the Tigers' victory.
"That was huge," he said. "They took the opening kickoff and marched right down the field on us, but we were able to keep them out of the end zone. They were winning the field position battle early on, but eventually we were able to flip the field on them and get things going in our favor. Our defense did a terrific job all night."
Randolph County had managed just 71 yards of offense in the second half before getting one last chance following a missed field goal by Red Bay with 1:20 remaining.
Houston, a 1,500-yard rusher playing quarterback in place of the injured Tyler Hall, quickly moved the Tigers to midfield with two first-down completions.
Four plays later, with the clock ticking down to zero, Houston launched a pass into the end zone, where C.J. White wrestled the ball away from Kennedy for an improbable touchdown.
"Where the heck did he come from?" Kennedy asked after the game.
With the clock showing all zeroes, Randolph County quickly lined up for the two-point conversion attempt. Houston's fade route to White sailed out of the back of the end zone, taking with it two years' worth of frustration and heartbreak for Red Bay.
"This feels great," Kennedy said in the postgame bedlam. "Randolph County is a great team. We played our guts out tonight. That's the only way we were able to win."
The Tigers prevailed despite being held to a season-low 214 yards of offense.
Kennedy was just 4-of-9 for 78 yards on the night, but he had completions of 35 yards to Lowery and 13 yards to Long on Red Bay's first scoring drive. Kennedy capped the drive with his 11th touchdown run of the season, a 1-yard plunge on fourth-and-goal that broke a scoreless tie with 4:07 left in the first half.
Long finished the night as Red Bay's leading rusher (56 yards on six carries) and receiver (two catches for 29 yards).
Red Bay now moves on to the quarterfinals to face Woodland, who knocked off top-ranked Fyffe 30-21.
"This was a big win for us, but we don't want to stop here," Jeffreys said. "Only one team in the history of this school has won 13 games. We've got 12 now, and we want to get No. 13 next week. We're just taking it one game at a time."

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