For a while in Paris on Friday it looked like Brighton might have a chance to upset Henry County like it did it three years ago en route to the program’s only state semifinal appearance.
The Cardinal defense did not allow the Patriots to pick up a first down on its first two possessions and Brighton’s offense was moving the ball.
Three key mistakes, however, one late in the first quarter and two more in the second, proved to be too much to overcome.
Henry County (9-2) took advantage of those miscues with three touchdowns and went on to a 52-16 win to end Brighton’s season at 6-6 in the second round of the Class 5A state playoffs.
“We made several mistakes in the second quarter that you just can’t make against Henry County,” Brighton coach Mike David said. “They’re just too good of a team. It was unfortunate because I thought we were moving the ball decently and I thought our defense was playing exceptionally well so it was a shame to have that happen.”
Late in the first quarter Henry County intercepted a screen pass and returned it for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead. A blocked Brighton punt led to another Henry County touchdown.
Midway through the second quarter Brighton jumped offsides when Henry County lined up for a field goal. The penalty resulted in a first down and Henry County scored right after that for a 21-0 lead.
Brighton never got back into the game after that as the Patriots built a 31-0 halftime lead.
It didn’t help matters that sophomore Braxton Sharp, Brighton’s best running back, left the game in the second quarter with a concussion. He ran for 65 yards on nine carries before sitting out the final two and a half quarters.
Brighton got on the board in the fourth quarter when Nick Harvell (5 of 12, 125 yards) threw a couple of touchdown passes. The first went to Bryce Chaco for 20 yards and then second was a 56-yarder to C.J. Bonner.
Just like it was for all teams, it was a weird season for Brighton, which did not play a game for a month before beating Dyer County in the first round of the playoffs on Nov. 6.
“If you look at it we had no spring football, no scrimmages and had to replace six games,” David said. “With that we really wanted to do well in the playoffs and make sure we were playing our best football at the end of the year. That’s what we were shooting for and I really truly believe we were.”
Brighton returns nine of 11 starters next year on offense, including Harvell and Sharp. Sharp rushed for 1,017 yards and 11 touchdowns this season and Harvell, who played quarterback for the first time in his life, rushed for 958.
The Cardinals deployed a run-heavy offense in the second half this season. David said that will change next year.
“I thought we were playing good football and we’re very excited about next year,” David said. “Nick threw the ball extremely well against Henry County and I think next year we will plan to be more balanced.”