Playoff matchup seems like old times for Tri-County, Briarfield

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 2, 2000

It’ll be just like old times Friday night in Flora.

Briarfield and Tri-County, who played for the South State title in 1996 and 1997, will meet this time in a second-round MPSA playoff game at 7 p.m. Admission is $5.

“(A win) will mean a lot. Over the years, Tri-County and Briarfield have had some battles, especially for the South State championship. It seems like it’s just come a week earlier this time,” said Briarfield head coach Jay Murphree, who was an assistant at the school for the previous playoff meetings.

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Both schools also stand poised to return to their former glory with a win. Tri-County (10-1) won both previous playoff meetings, 33-14 in 1996 and 34-16 in 1997, only to lose in the state title game. Briarfield (8-3), meanwhile, enjoyed a pair of 10-win seasons before falling into a slide that saw them go 1-19 over the last two seasons.

Whoever comes out on top on Friday will send a message that their program is back.

“It’d be a big step, but we’ve got to take care of business this Friday night before we can even worry about that,” Tri-County coach Bo Milton said.

The two teams have met more recently, but it was another one to forget for Briarfield Tri-County claimed a 48-16 victory at home on Sept. 22.

“It’s a different atmosphere playing over there than we’re used to. Hopefully we can go over there and execute our gameplan,” Murphree said.

That game gave both coaches an idea of what to expect this Friday, but they also said things have changed since then.

“We played them earlier in the year and they’ve gotten a whole lot better since then,” Milton said, adding the game was better than the score indicates. “That score does not really indicate the story of that ballgame.”

Milton said the key to another Tri-County win would be ball control and defense. Tri-County has several backs who eat up yards and clock and have combined for over 2,000 yards this season, while Briarfield has one of the most potent weapons in the area with 1,500-yard rusher Tony Howard.

Howard rushed for 115 yards and two touchdowns in a 25-21 first-round win over two-time defending South State champion Mount Olive last week.

“He’s a real good running back,” Milton said. “He runs hard and has good speed. We just need to wrap up and make tackles.”

One intangible in Tri-County’s favor will be home-field advantage. Milton said he expects 1,500 to 2,000 people at Friday’s game, and it’s nearly a 2 1/2 hour trip from Lake Providence to Flora.

Murphree pointed out the fact that his team has only played four home games this season, however, and didn’t foresee it as a huge obstacle.

“The kids are excited, the school is excited. This would definitely be a big one for us if we can go over there and win,” Murphree said. “The odds are stacked against us, but then again, they have been all year.”