When Chestatee’s Nick Beard was sprinting into the end zone for a defensive go-ahead score late in Friday’s win against White County, his mind was racing a mile a minute. It’s the kind of dream scenario for a battle-tested linebacker getting to score a pivotal touchdown that anyone his age grows up thinking about. Beard was at the right place at the right time to be the hero of the game.
“I was just saying over and over to myself, ‘Nick, please don’t trip,’” the War Eagles’ senior linebacker said about running with the ball.
While Beard was galloping in for the 44-yard score, he could see his teammates jumping up and down on their sideline in Cleveland with less than 3 minutes to go and the game tied at 21-21. Beard said he could feel his heart beating through his shoulder pads with a clear path for six points.
Chestatee’s linebacker scored to secure a 27-21 victory for the War Eagles, snapping a 16-game region losing streak for the program dating back to the final game of the 2013 regular season.
“When I scored, everyone was just so excited,” said Beard, who finished the game with 10 tackles and a first-half sack. “When we were celebrating, I almost was knocked over by (teammate) Baylee (Camp).”
For his effort, Beard is The Times Football Player of the Week.
With the win, Chestatee (4-5, 1-2 Region 7-AAAA) is in the running for its first playoff berth since 2013, the same season it won its only playoff game in school history. The War Eagles wrap up the regular season against No. 10 Marist (5-3, 1-1) on Friday in Gainesville.
Beard was the one credited with the big score against White County, but he made it clear there were a bunch of War Eagles defenders who had a hand in the play.
It started with White County rolling the dice on a fourth-and-13 with the ball at its own 46 late in the fourth quarter.
The Warriors ran a reverse play, according to Chestatee coach Shaun Conley, and Moises Cuevas and Austin Gean collaborated with a hit for the War Eagles’ defense to force an initial fumble. After White County’s running back got the ball back, he was hit again, forcing White County’s running back to drop the ball again.
This one was right in front of Beard for the scoop and score.
Chestatee’s first-year coach said that all season Beard is one of his seniors who has embraced new leadership and played better as the season has gone along. Beard said since the summer his senior class of teammates have all had the goal to get the program into the postseason, despite finishing 0-10 in 2015.
Against White County, Chestatee also got a big performance from wide receiver Reggie James who topped 100 yards with two touchdowns rushing, after the team’s leading rusher Nick Lyles didn’t play.
Conley’s made it a point this year not to have players talk about the past of the program. He said dwelling on things that can’t be changed doesn’t benefit anyone.
“Our kids here at Chestatee are awesome,” said Conley. “Nick’s been one of our many seniors who continues to play really well.”