Sweetwater vs. Brainerd

Austin Long hands the ball off to Drew Hicks during Sweetwater’s game at Brainerd on Friday, Sept. 20.

Sweetwater High School football coach Mike Martin has used the term “ugly” to describe his team’s style of play during the Wildcats’ 2-1 start to the season.

Martin saw a prettier performance on Friday night, as Sweetwater traveled to Brainerd and left with a dominant 28-6 win. The Wildcats are now 3-1 on the season and 2-0 in Region 3-AAA play.

“I thought we performed really well on both sides, period,” Martin said. “Our kids played hard on both sides.”

Sweetwater used a three-headed running back attack to perfection against Brainerd. Senior Drew Hicks led the way with 16 carries for 74 yards and a touchdown.

The Wildcats notched the game’s first score on a 4-yard run by Thomas Billingsley, making it 7-0 in the second quarter. Brainerd responded with its only scoring drive of the night, but the extra point was blocked and Sweetwater held a one-point advantage at halftime.

It was a tale of two halves. The Wildcats came out of the locker room with poise and purpose, quickly extending their lead on a two-play drive that was capped by a 35-yard touchdown run from Bryce Johnson, making it a 14-6 game.

“I looked at (quarterback) Austin Long (at halftime) and I said ‘I have got to get Bryce Johnson involved in the ball game,’” Martin said. “Well, two plays later he is in the end zone … it was crucial for us to take that opening drive and score. I think we scored in two plays.

“I think that gave us a lot of confidence and we played well the rest of the second half.”

That second half opening drive was a sign of things to come for Sweetwater.

After Brainerd turned the ball over on downs, the Wildcats executed a 13-play drive that resulted in a 1-yard touchdown run from Hicks, extending the Sweetwater lead to 21-6.

“When we hit 20 (points), I thought ‘Lord have mercy, what is going on?’” Martin said. “We have erupted.”

Billingsley added the game’s final blow on a 20-yard touchdown run with 7:27 remaining in the fourth quarter. He finished with seven carries for 63 yards and two touchdowns.

“Man, (Billingsley) is a warrior,” Martin said. “He just runs. He don’t care who’s in front of him. He just runs. They all do … We have got some running backs that run hard. We love to spread it around.”

Long was an efficient 5-of-9 passing for 63 yards at the quarterback position. Hicks led the team with a pair of receptions for 29 yards.

The standout performer on the defense- one that forced Brainerd to turn the ball over on fourth down six times- was Johnson. He tallied 10 tackles, including two sacks.

Brainerd notched a couple of explosive plays, but Martin was happy with his team’s defensive effort.

“That’s what we have been all year,” Martin said. “And you are going to do that against Brainerd. They have people that can take it to the house every play. I thought, once again, the defense played well. If you hold them to six, we are okay.”

Next up

Sweetwater will now turn its attention to its next contest, when the Wildcats will host Sequoyah on Friday, Sept. 27.

“This is what we needed for us to gain a little confidence, especially offensively,” Martin said.

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