The only place you won't find Chopticon High School football player Jamie Byroads this season is on the sidelines. The 6-foot, 170-pound junior plays offense, defense and returns kicks for the Braves. He also handles the team's punting and place-kicking duties.
Friday afternoon, Byroads had three receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown and returned four kicks for 124 yards. He also had a 19-yard run on a fake punt late in the fourth quarter and intercepted a pass with 48 seconds left as Chopticon defeated Gwynn Park, 21-20, in a nonconference game at Gwynn Park.
"Jamie is a phenomenal athlete," said Chopticon Coach Andy Palko, whose team improved to 1-1. "He's not the fastest guy in the world or the strongest, but he makes things happen. He was the difference in the game today."
Byroads, who starts at wide receiver and safety, was quiet in the first half--but the rest of the Braves weren't.
Chopticon took a 7-0 lead on its first possession. Following a quarterback sack by Jon Powless and Tony McGee, which forced Gwynn Park to punt, the Braves marched 56 yards in 10 plays. Junior running back Alan Courtney carried the ball two times for 11 yards and junior quarterback Jamar Mason was 2 for 3 for 25 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown pass to Palko's son, Andrew, the team's starting tight end.
In the second quarter, Chopticon raised its lead to 15-0, on a 5-yard touchdown run by Courtney and a safety, which occurred when senior Josh Laster tackled Gwynn Park punter Albert Miller in the end zone.
After the Yellow Jackets answered with six points in the third quarter, Byroads caught a 47-yard touchdown pass to give Chopticon a 21-6 lead. He also returned two kicks for 84 yards in the quarter.
Gwynn Park struck again early in the fourth quarter, returning a blocked punt for a touchdown and then scoring a two-point conversion. And on the Yellow Jackets' next possession, quarterback Darrin Long hit Dominick Hunter for a 37-yard touchdown, cutting the lead to 21-20 with 7:43 remaining. The extra point failed, though, as Laster tackled Long in the backfield.
Chopticon tried to keep the ball on the ground and eat up as much clock as possible. But following a five-yard penalty and four-yard loss, the Braves were forced to punt from their own 44-yard-line. Or so it seemed.
"I knew Gwynn Park would be coming hard, so I told Jamie to fake the punt and run," said Palko, whose team practices fake field goals and punts in practice every day. "Even if they stopped him, I would rather have Byroads running the ball than them blocking another punt."
Byroads gained 19 yards on the fake punt, giving Chopticon a crucial first down with less than five minutes to play. The Braves then ran seven straight running plays, eating up more than three minutes on the clock, but they eventually turned the ball over on downs. Gwynn Park had one last chance to win, but Byroads intercepted Long's first pass to seal the victory.
"This was a big win," said Palko, whose team lost to Thomas Stone in the opening week of the season. "We knew Gwynn Park was a tough team, and we knew we had to play well to win. It wasn't pretty, but a win is a win."
NOTES: Gwynn Park had 58 yards of total offense in the first half, 114 in the second half. Chopticon had 93 yards in the first half, 77 in the second half. . . . Chopticon scored on its first two possessions. . . . Gwynn Park had six penalties for 65 yards.
Chopticon (1-1) 7 8 6 0 21
Gwynn Park (1-1) 0 0 6 14 20
C--Palko 16 pass from Mason (Byroads kick)
C--Courtney 5 run (run failed)
C--Laster tackled Miller in end zone for safety
GP--Johnson 7 run (kick failed)
C--Byroads 47 pass from Mason (kick failed)
GP--Brown 25 return of blocked punt (Daniel run)
GP--Hunter 37 pass from Long (run failed)
RUSHING LEADERS--Chopticon: Courtney 16-34, Showalter 10-22, Pettie 3-12, Mason 9-8, Byroads 1-19; Gwynn Park: Johnson 7-8, Long 11-28, Daniel 7-34, Dunston 3-21.
PASSING LEADERS--Chopticon: Mason 6-10-1 106; Gwynn Park: Long 3-10-1 84.
RECEIVING LEADERS--Chopticon: Byroads 3-62, Palko 2-33, Estep 1-11; Gwynn Park: Hunter 2-69, Pruitt 1-15.