Eight days before his team was to open the season against West Charlotte, Gastonia Ashbrook head football coach Mike Briggs lost starting quarterback Austin Scott for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Now consider this: It is the third consecutive year that the Green Wave has lost its starting QB, either at the end of preseason or early in the regular season.
“You figure the QB gods would have some pity on you,” Briggs said, somewhat laughingly. “It's not bad luck; it's just been a freak thing that has happened with us.”
Ashbrook opened the season against two perennial powerhouses – West Charlotte and Clover (S.C.) – and understandably struggled, losing by a combined score of 71-16. Up next were games against two more traditionally strong teams, Shelby and Burns.
But the Green Wave responded with two big victories, 34-16 over Shelby and 42-7 at Burns. This past Friday, Ashbrook was to travel to Olympic in Charlotte to face another difficult opponent.
Briggs makes no secret of why he schedules a tough non-conference schedule.
“That's what makes us better, if we can survive. The year we won the state title (2002), I think we started 1-4. We tend to get better as the season goes along.”
Briggs now has a two-quarterback system that seems to be gaining momentum. Senior Darius Edwards and sophomore Dontrae Meeks have done an excellent job of running the Green Wave offense, with Meeks throwing three touchdown passes in the past two games. Edwards has two scoring throws and a touchdown run.
Both quarterbacks make sure star senior receiver Jheranie Boyd gets the opportunity to make big plays.
Boyd turned the Shelby game around when he caught a 76-yard touchdown pass from Meeks with Ashbrook trailing 16-14 in the third quarter.
Then against Burns, Boyd – who is considering college offers from Auburn, Clemson, Florida and North Carolina – caught three more touchdown passes, giving him six through four games.
“I've seen some quality players, but Jay (Jheranie) has more explosive speed than anyone I've seen in this area,” Briggs said. “He has such a tremendous ability to take it to another gear, and the scary part is he has not even come close to reaching his potential yet.”
Almost forgotten in the discussion has been the Ashbrook defense. Heading into the Olympic game, the Green Wave had given up just two touchdowns in its past six quarters and had forced nine turnovers.
“The kids have been real resilient and patient through tough spots,” Briggs said. “We've been able to get the ball in the hands of our playmakers, but in the end the defense is what's going to win games.”