KILLEN — Brooks played what coach Jerry Hill called the team’s best defensive performance of the season. But when facing off against a future Division I football player, sometimes your best just isn’t enough.
Madison County running back and Troy commitment Jordan Chunn rushed for 135 yards on 23 carries, including a momentum-changing 45-yard gallop in the fourth quarter to set up what turned out to be the winning touchdown in the Tigers’ 35-23 Class 4A quarterfinal win over Brooks.
“He is a tremendous football player,” Madison County coach Scott Peavey said. “He’s been that way his whole career. He consistently finds ways to make big plays for us. The saying is that big-time players make big-time plays in big time games, and he did that for us tonight.”
Chunn was held mostly in check for three quarters by an inspired Brooks defense. The Lions appeared to have momentum after taking a 23-21 lead on Deion Bonton’s 2-yard run with 9:48 to play.
After an extremely short kickoff gave Madison County the ball at its own 48-yard line, Chunn unleashed his biggest run. He took the handoff and was hit at the line of scrimmage by three defenders, but bounced off of them. He broke another tackle a few yards downfield, and raced 45 yards to the 7-yard line.
Chunn scored on the next play to give Madison County a lead it would never relinquish.
“The defense played their hearts out tonight,” Hill said. “That’s a Division I signee at running back. I thought we might wear him down in the fourth quarter but he didn’t. He made some great runs for them.”
Madison County put the game away on its next possession quarterback Jackson Richard raced 36 yards around right end for a touchdown.
Brooks’ final two possessions ended on interceptions, including one that Chunn picked off in the end zone with 5:23 remaining.
“Our guys played as hard as they could play,” Hill said. “Physically we were outmached, but the guys played with tremendous heart and pride.”
The game was a back-and-forth affair most of the way, with Brooks (11-2) slugging it out toe to toe with the bigger and stronger Tigers.
Madison County led 6-0 after the first quarter on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Richard to Monterio Burchfield on fourth down. But Brooks answered to take the lead on Skyler Beck’s 16-yard run early in the second quarter. After the Tigers retook the lead when Richard and Burchfield hooked up on a 41-yard scoring pass and 2-point conversion, Brooks tied it once again on a 64-yard bomb from Beck to Caylen McAfee.
Beck finished with 183 yards on 20-of-29 completions with two interceptions.
The Lions had a chance to take a halftime lead after recovering a fumbled punt at the 14-yard line in the final seconds, but Joseph Gurley’s 33-yard field goal was nullified by a false start penalty. Gurley then missed the 38-yard attempt on the final play of the half.
A false start penalty also cost Brooks a touchdown in the third quarter. The Lions drove to a second and goal at the Madison County 1-yard line to open the second half. However, a false start penalty backed them up to the 6, and they settled for Gurley’s 21-yard field goal and a 17-14 lead.
That lead lasted less than two minutes, as Madison County scored on a 30-yard pass from Richard to Brandon Gurley.
“In a game like this when the teams are pretty even, those little things make a big difference,” Hill said. “We made some mistakes and Madison County did a good job taking advantage of them.”
Brooks still looked like it would overcome its mistakes when Bonton capped off a 14-play, 65-yard drive with his 2-yard plunge early in the fourth quarter. But Chunn’s big run on the next play from scrimmage signaled the beginning of the end of Brooks’ season.
Madison County (12-1) faces Oneonta in the semifinals.
“There were a lot of tears in the locker room after the game,” Hill said. “But in a few days, after they’ve had time to think about it, our seniors will realize how much they accomplished. They had a great year and a great career. They’ve got a lot to be proud of.”