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Wilcox Patriots drop a tough one on the road against Berrien

NASHVILLE- The Wilcox County Patriots football team traveled to play AA Berrien County on Friday night. The Patriots jumped out to a 12-0 lead at halftime, but the hosts made a second half comeback and finished on top by a final score of 28-19 in the first game in their new stadium.

A scoreless first quarter saw the teams trade a pair of turnovers as both struggled to move the ball against the opposing defense. The Berrien turnover came on a fumble that was forced by JayQuan Brown, and Jacquarius Dixon made the recovery for Wilcox.

The two teams swapped several punts for most of the second quarter until the Patriots defense came up with a big play. The Berrien Rebels attempted a running play on first and 10 from their own eight-yard line and Desmond Tisdol stripped the ball away from the runner before taking it in for a short defensive touchdown to put Wilcox in front 6-0. The two-point conversion try was unsuccessful, but Wilcox had the first lead of the night with about three and a half minutes remaining in the first half.

The Patriots immediately took possession of the ball back when the Rebels fumbled the subsequent kickoff. Branson Owens was credited with the forced fumble and Martez Thrower recovered the ball for Wilcox, giving the offense possession of the ball at the Berrien County 13-yard line. Several plays later, Wilcox scored a touchdown on fourth and goal on a pass from Noah Hollingsworth to Owens from 10 yards out. The extra point try was no good so the Patriots led 12-0 with just over a minute left in the first half.

The Patriots kicked off to Berrien to open up the second half, and the Rebels got right back in the game with a 92-yard return touchdown. The extra point that followed made the score 12-7 in favor of Wilcox about 20 seconds into the third quarter.

The teams traded punts for the next couple of minutes and a crazy sequence over the remainder of the third quarter saw Wilcox extend their lead to 19-7.

The Patriots attempted to convert on a fourth and short at the Berrien 41-yard line, but the Rebel defense stopped the play in the backfield to force a turnover on downs. Two plays later, Cameron Patterson created a fumble and recovered the ball to give the Patriots possession again. The Rebels next intercepted a pass from Hollingsworth just three plays later. On the subsequent play, the Rebels fumbled the ball on a missed handoff and Tisdol scooped the ball up and returned the recovery for a 20-yard touchdown. Manny Carrillo made the extra point for the 19-7 lead with just over three minutes to play in the third quarter.

The Rebels put a long eight-play 72-yard drive together that carried over into the fourth quarter to cut the Wilcox lead down to five points. The final play of the drive resulted in a 26-yard touchdown pass, and the extra point made the score 19-14 in favor of Wilcox around 20 seconds into the fourth quarter.

The Rebels took their first lead of the night at 21-19 on a 36-yard touchdown run with 5:21 to go in the game.

Berrien forced a Wilcox punt on the very next series, and the Rebels ran out most of the remaining time before punching in one final 25-yard touchdown run and extra point, which brought the final score to 28-19 in favor of the Rebels.

Owens and Brown led the Patriot defense on the night with nine total tackles apiece. Tisdol had eight total tackles including two for a loss of yards to go along with his two fumble return touchdowns. Thrower and Patterson each chipped in on the night with six tackles apiece, while Ahmad Johnson and EJ Howard each tallied three.

The Patriots are now 2-1 on the season and will be playing their first region game of the season this Friday night when they travel to Lakeland to take on the Lanier County Bulldogs.

A win against the 0-3 Lanier County Bulldogs would be a solid start to region play for Wilcox County.