Those who observed O.J. Guice on the hardwood at Brantley knew his athletic gifts could easily translate on to the football field.
So watching him roll up 146 yards and three touchdowns (one rushing, two receiving) en route to earning MVP honors in Brantley’s 33-0 thrashing of Marion County in the Class 1A state championship game didn’t shock too many on Thursday.
Well, that only leaves one burning question: What took him so long?
“I don’t know, but I am sure glad he did this year,” Brantley head coach David Lowery said. “This is actually his first football season, so for him to do what he did this year is really incredible and speaks for his talents and abilities.”
Guice’s response to the question was identical: “I don’t know?”
The forward turned receiver hauled in first-half touchdown catches of 15 and 13 yards to jump start the Bulldogs (15-0) toward their second state championship crown in four seasons. He also scored on a 21-yard run in the third.
Lowery patiently waited for Guice to make up his mind.
“We’ve known the whole time that the talent was there because we’ve seen him on the basketball court,” the veteran Brantley coach said.
A self proclaimed basketball nut, the 6-foot-1 junior sang a different tune following the game.
“It’s a good feeling, I love it,” said Guice, who averaged close to 15 points last season. “I wish I had been playing earlier — I love it. I am really into basketball, but I am starting to like football now.”
He couldn’t quite put a finger on what actually kept him away from football. However, Guice showed this season there’s a possible future in football, finishing with 38 catches for 528 yards and 14 TDs for an offense which relied mainly on the ground game.
Clearly there’s something special the Brantley coaching staff sees in Guice. Lowery admitted to integrating designed plays to assure that the speedster touched the ball more than usual in the school’s most important game of the season.
It just wasn’t the offensive side that Guice shined bright.
He broke up a would-be touchdown pass intended for DeShawn Reibesehl at the goal line on fourth-and-13 to preserve Brantley’s 12-0 edge early in the third quarter. Guice was huge during a similar situation a quarter earlier, stopping Reibesehl inches shy of the first on fourth down.
“He can do a lot of things. He can catch the ball really well, he can run the ball really well and he’s good in space,” Lowery said. “He used all of his abilities today. … He’s a spot player on defense. We usually use him in pass coverage, but he made a big play on the run tonight.”