After three consecutive 11-win seasons, including an appearance in the 2014 finals, Archer took a big step back last season, finishing 4-7.
The Tigers took a big step toward leaving last season far behind with a 25-17 win over Class AAAAAAA No. 6 Brookwood, in Game 2 of five, Saturday at the Corky Kell Classic at Georgia State Stadium.
Archer led 12-0 in the second quarter and 25-7 late in the third. But missed opportunities allowed Brookwood to creep back in the game and have a shot in the fourth quarter, before a 45-yard fourth-down pass sailed out of the end zone with five seconds left in the game.
“That was a result of us not scoring when we were in the red zone,” said Archer head coach Andy Dyer, the only coach the program has had in its nine seasons. “We had opportunities but didn’t take advantage, and when you have a team like Brookwood, with athletes like they have, they’re always going to be in ballgames in the fourth quarter.”
Archer struck first, capitalizing on a mistake by the Broncos. With the ball on its own 25 yard line, Brookwood shot itself in the foot with two consecutive bad snaps. The first one pushed them back to the 14 yard line. The next one bounced into the endzone and quarterback Angelo DiSpigna kicked the ball out of bounds to avert further damage. The safety gave Archer a 2-0 lead with a little more than four minutes left in the first quarter.
On the kickoff to Archer following the safety, Taiyon Palmer faked a reverse and raced 60 yards to the Brookwood 21 yard line. But the Broncos’ defense held the Tigers out of the endzone, and Archer settled for a 30 field goal by senior Michael Johnson to push the lead to 5-0 to end the first quarter.
The Tigers took advantage of another Brookwood miscue for their first touchdown of the season. Bronco senior running back Dante Black fumbled after he was hit from behind after breaking two tackles. Archer’s Colin Stein recovered at the Brookwood 45 yard line. Six plays into the ensuing drive, junior receiver Braylen Weems caught a short hitch from sophomore quarterback Carter Peevy, bounced out of a tackle and darted into the endzone from 16 yards out give Archer a 12-0 lead.
On Brookwood’s next possession, Black redeemed himself when he caught a screen pass from DiSpigna and sprinted 57 yards down the far sideline for a touchdown to close the gap to 12-7, after Jake Carmill’s point after kick.
Brookwood looked poised to take the lead a short time later when the defense forced a three-and-out by Archer, and Atlanta Journal Constitution Super 11 member Matthew Hill returned the punt 50 yards to the Tigers’ 11-yard line. But Archer’s defense, aided by a dropped pass by Hill, held strong and Carmill missed a 38-yard field goal.
Archer made the Broncos pay when on their next possession the Tigers drove 80 yards in eight plays. On fourth-and-goal from the 2 yard line Semaje Banks swept into the endzone on the far side to increase the Tigers’ lead to 19-7 at halftime.
Brookwood’s mistakes continued in the second half. On the Bronco’s first play from scrimmage DiSpigna tried to hit Hill with a quick hitch in the far flat, but senior Taiyon Palmer jumped the route and grabbed the interception at the Brookwood 16 yard line. But the Bronco defense held Archer out of the endzone, and the Tigers settled for a 30-yard field goal by Johnson.
On the Broncos’ next possession, Hill fumbled inside Brookwood’s 20 yard line. But once again, the defense forced another field goal, this time a 25-yarder by Johnson to make the score 25-7 entering the fourth quarter.
Brookwood finally caught a break early in the final period. With Archer looking to put the game away Peevy’s pass into the endzone was tipped and intercepted by Kendall Williams, who, with Hill as an escort, raced 100 yards up the far sideline for a touchdown to cut the Archer lead to 25-14.
Brookwood settled for a field goal on its next possession and got the ball back with a chance to tie the game with a touchdown and a two-point conversion. But the Broncos would get no closer than the Tigers’ 45-yard line as time expired.
Hill finished with 198 total yards on 15 touches. But he had just 23 yards receiving on four catches. Archer cornerback Taiyon Palmer had two interceptions while covering Hill.
“This is validation for our kids and all the hard work they put in,” Dyer said. “As a coach and as a dad, you love to see your kids being successful and excited.”
Archer 5 14 6 0 25
Brookwood 0 7 0 10 17
A – Ball kicked out of the back of the endzone, following bad snap
A – Michael Johnson 30 fg
A – Braylen Weems 16 pass from Carter Peevy (Johnson kick)
B – Dante Black 57 yard pass from Angelo DiSpigna (Jake Carmill kick)
A – Semaje Banks 2 run (Johnson kick)
A – Johnson 30 fg
A – Johnson 25 fg
B – Kendall Williamson 100 interception return (Carmill kick)
A – Carmill 32 fg