Benyard’s three scores solidify second-straight state title for Irwin County in 27-19 win over Brooks County

Published: Dec. 28, 2020 at 10:08 PM EST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (WCTV) - The Irwin County Indians have won their second-consecutive Class 1A Public state championship after defeating Brooks County, 27-19, Monday night from Center Parc Stadium in Atlanta.

The Indians win over the Trojans is their second this season.

Irwin County was paced by three touchdowns from Gabriel Benyard, all of which came in the first half.

Trailing 7-0 after one series, Benyard’s first score came in the form of a 35-yard touchdown rush to pull the Indians within a point after a missed extra point attempt, capping off a four-play, 65-yard drive.

Benyard followed that up with two more first-half touchdowns: a two-yard rush with 18 seconds remaining in the first quarter to put the Indians ahead, 13-7, and a 53-yard catch after the ball was misplayed, if only barely, by Trojan defender Amar Thomas, to give Irwin a 20-7 lead.

While the Indian offense was cruising, so was the Indian defense: After allowing 58 yards on just nine plays on the opening possession, the Irwin County defense kept Brooks County to just 16 yards on 11 plays from scrimmage.

That was, until, the Trojans’ final offensive series on the half, when they marched just over half the field and Burrus began to find his footing again, completing passes and relying on the run game.

Brooks County’s Omari Arnold nearly found the endzone before being taken down at the 15-yard line, when he was successful in making the house call after emerging from a pile and brining the Trojans to within a touchdown after a missed extra point of their own.

BCHS’ Saveon Cason picked off Indians quarterback Cody Soliday, who was looking for Garlan Benyard deep, to end the first half.

On their first offensive series of the second half, Brooks County appeared to be cooking, until Burrus underthrew a ball targeted for Jamal Sanders, allowing Evan Ross to step in and snatch it and took it to the house for the pick-six and the final points of the night for the Indians.

That was all the offense the Indians would need, though, after Burrus appeared to injure his leg mid-way through the third quarter, leading to him and Sanders alternating under center for the Trojans.

Brooks County didn’t roll over in the closing minutes, though, as Burrus and Brown connected for the second time on the evening for a touchdown, but it proved to be too little too late as the Indians recovered the onside kick and won, 27-19.

Brooks County opened the scoring on the game’s first drive, attempting to lull Irwin County with their running game for their first eight-plays before airing it out on a third-and-eight, as Nitavion Burrus found Wilile Brown on a 35-yard reception to give the Trojans a 7-0 lead.

Benyard finished the night with 14 rushes for 92 yards and two rushing touchdowns on the ground and another two catches for 67 yards and a score through the air.

Indian quarterback Cody Soliday completed nine of his 14 attempted passes for 154 yards and a touchdown.

Burrus went 12-for-22 from the air for 125 yards and two touchdowns. Arnold put together a quiet 113-yard rushing night on 21 carries and his first-half score.

In total, the Indians outgained the Trojans, 291-224, despite running two fewer plays.

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