Jermaine "Hungry" Birch would have been proud of the way his Henry Clay Blue Devils played football Friday night — with bubbling emotion and devastating efficiency.
That was Birch's style as an All-City nose guard at Henry Clay in 2005, and that was the Devils' style as they bashed Bryan Station 27-6 in a showdown of top 20 teams Friday night.
It wasn't a coincidence.
After Birch died in a tragic, senseless shooting earlier this week, Coach Sam Simpson implored his players to honor the former Devil by emulating the way he played the game.
"I reminded them that he used to take centers and throw them into quarterbacks' laps," Simpson said.
"A lot of these younger kids didn't know Jermaine, but I wanted them to play with Blue Devil pride. That's what Jermaine played for when he played here."
After a pre-game moment of silence to remember Birch, 14th-rated Henry Clay went out and manhandled the previously unbeaten and 18th-rated Defenders on its way to a 24-0 halftime lead
Bo Brooks, one of the Devils' stars of the night, said honoring Birch "was motivation for us. Coach told us he was a hard worker who went hard on every play."
Henry Clay did just that as it beat the Defenders for the ninth year in a row.
Brooks led the offense, rushing for 107 yards and a touchdown. Shannon Coofer ran for 92 yards and a TD. Jerry Williams passed and ran for 101 yards.
The Devils' defense, led by Ryan McCray, Shan Howell and James Hendron, forced six turnovers.
Bryan Station tailback Tevin McCaden, one of the state's leading rushers, had another big night. He carried 34 times for 245 yards, including a 74-yard TD dash in the fourth quarter.
McCaden pushed his season totals to 1,420 yards and 18 TDs, but it wasn't enough to offset the Defenders' miscues.
Henry Clay, which looked flat and uninspired in a rain-soaked 12-9 loss to Lafayette last week, regained its mojo quickly.
The Devils took the opening kickoff and put together a seven-minute, 17-play drive that was capped by A.J. Yewell's 26-yard field goal.
Bryan Station came right back on its first possession.
Behind the running of McCaden, the visitors drove to the Henry Clay 5. Coach Oliver Lucas thought his team scored on a TD pass that was ruled an incompletion.
"That was a big play," he said. "Officials don't win or lose the game, but they sure can sure stop your momentum."
The Devils delivered the knockout with three TDs in the second quarter.
Brooks scooted nine yards for the first six-pointer. Tyrelle Johnson got the next one by blocking a Bryan Station punt and pouncing on the ball in the end zone. Coofer added the third with a 37-yard streak down the sideline.
"It was a tough night all around," Lucas said. "We got in a big game, and our kids didn't respond."
Henry Clay honored Birch in its post-game celebration.
The players huddled and roared a victory chant that Birch wrote when he was a Blue Devil.
When the chant ended, and with Simpson in the middle of his players, they all pointed to the sky and shouted, "This one's for you Hungry.'"
Bryan Station 0 0 0 6— 6
Henry Clay 3 21 3 0—27
HC—A.J. Yewell 26 field goal. HC—Bo Brooks 9 run (Yewell kick). HC—Tyrelle Johnson recovered blocked punt in end zone (Yewell kick). HC—Shannon Coofer 37 run (Yewell kick). HC—Yewell 32 field goal. BS—Tevin McCaden 74 run (kick failed).
Records: Bryan Station 5-1; Henry Clay 5-1