Brainerd wanted respect Friday night. And the Panthers were willing to waiting out a storm to earn it.
Brainerd dominated the first half and held on despite an hour weather delay for an impressive 33-8 homecoming win over Tyner.
"You all get to eat a little crow over the Labor Day weekend," Brainerd coach Stanley Jackson said, referring to the Times Free Press Picks Panel that was unanimously incorrect in picking the Rams. "Didn't nobody pick us, but we knew what we could do.
"We knew this was a pivotal game. We looked at it like a playoff game because we know Tyner has a tremendous tradition and know we have to win games like this to get to where we want to be."
Jackson's postgame enthusiasm was due in large part to a creative offensive attack and the do-it-all skills of senior Maleek Rooks.
Rooks turned the opening two quarters into his personal highlight reel -- running for a score, catching another, recovering a fumble and hauling in an interception -- as the Panthers took a 20-0 lead into halftime.
He added a 53-yard touchdown catch on Brainerd's first offensive play after the weather delay. It was a creative delay route that was perfectly executed by Rooks and quarterback Sam Caffey, who finished 5-of-8 for 102 yards with the two touchdowns throws to Rooks and a third to Demetrius Kitchens.
"This team is willing to work for each other and is willing to do whatever it takes," said Rooks, who finished with 120 yards rushing and 84 receiving in addition to being selected for the homecoming court during halftime.
Tyner coach Wayne Turner needed no more proof.
Despite an impressive 6-yard touchdown run by freshman Kalan Hardley in the third quarter, his Rams mustered 249 yards and committed five turnovers. Tyner struggled offensively for the second consecutive week in large part because of a Brainerd defense anchored by Isaiah Hayes, Donnell Reynolds, Chris Davis and freshman cornerback Kaylen Stewart, who had a 34-yard interception return to close the scoring.
"We had some chances early and didn't take advantage of them," Turner said, "but they had a lot to do with that. And when they had their chances they made the most of them.
"They kind of got the momentum, and then it was Katie bar the door."
And no matter who was waiting by the entrance, Rooks and the Panthers had every intention of storming the gate.
"We're willing to play every play, 24/7," Rooks said. ""We're here to stay, and we're here to win."
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...