Surging Sprayberry makes statement with commanding win
by Adam Carrington
The Marietta Daily Journal
October 11, 2014 02:19 AM
Sprayberry’s Jabari Zuniga (11) sacks Cambridge quarterback Brian Moore during Friday’s game at Jim Frazier Stadium. The upstart Bears, who took Kell to the brink a few weeks ago, had no answer for the Yellow Jackets, who took a half-game lead atop the subregion.
Special photo by Cecil Copeland
MARIETTA — If there were any questions on how legit Sprayberry was this season, the Yellow Jackets answered Friday night.
After winning just two games a year ago, Sprayberry made a serious statement with a 31-7 win over a Cambridge team that had been averaging 38.5 points a game.
The Yellow Jackets (5-2, 4-0) were on a four-game winning streak going into the Region 7AAAAA (B) game at Jim Frazier Stadium, with three of those wins coming against lightly regarded opponents. Last week, they needed two overtimes to beat Riverwood.
Cambridge (4-2, 1-2), meanwhile, came in with just one loss — a last-second defeat at Kell two weeks ago.
With two subregion games to play, Sprayberry has a half-game lead over idle Kell. The Yellow Jackets will face the Longhorns on Halloween, looking to reach the state playoffs for the first time 2011.
“This is one of our biggest wins in Sprayberry history,” said running back Rakeem Myricks, who rushed for 95 yards and two second-half touchdowns. “I’m here to say that Sprayberry is for real.”
Sprayberry came in with a game plan to contain Cambridge quarterback Brian Moore, an elusive scrambler known for keeping plays alive when pressured.
Though Moore eventually threw for 208 yards and rushed for an additional 42, the Yellow Jackets sacked him twice, tackled him five times for loss and linebacker Brandon Woods ended up with two key interceptions in the second half.
“Coach (Billy) Blizzard and our defensive staff did a phenomenal job preparing for a really good Cambridge offense,” Sprayberry coach Billy Shackelford said. “I also want to commend the players for executing. (Moore) is a Johnny Manziel-type player. We did a good job pressuring and being able to defend.”
While Sprayberry limited Cambridge’s offensive production, it couldn’t do much with its own offense in the first half. Both teams punted four times before the break.
Sprayberry had just two first downs in the opening half, with 13 yards rushing and 30 passing.
However, Sprayberry went into the locker room with a 3-0 lead as Rodrigo Blankenship booted a school-record 51-yard field goal with 1:26 left in the half. The opportunity came after Jean Redghy recovered a Moore fumble in Cambridge territory.
In the second half, Sprayberry began creating better running lanes, and quarterback Andrew Pereira started finding his receivers. Myricks had a 14-yard run on Sprayberry’s first drive of the second half, and Pereira hit Jon Palmer twice for 12- and 14-yard passes. The latter pass completion set up a 3-yard scamper by Myricks.
Cambridge scored on a 31-yard pass from Moore to Hunter Smith to cut the Yellow Jacket lead to 10-7. It was indication that both offenses made successful halftime adjustments.
But only Sprayberry’s offense remained hot.
“They adjusted to our tendencies, and we had to go against our tendencies to play offense,” Shackelford said. “We threw when we needed to and our receivers were selfless.”
Sprayberry’s second touchdown came late in the third quarter, when Pereira hit Palmer for a 27-yard touchdown on third-and-10 play, getting separation and the Bears couldn’t answer.
Woods’ first interception led to another touchdown when Myricks ran from 22 yards out, and the Yellow Jackets capitalized on Woods’ second pick early in the fourth quarter, when Trey Sermon rushed 12 yards into the end zone.