Briarwood wins soccer title

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 11, 2004

A last-minute win in Friday’s semifinal may have put flutters in the hearts of the Briarwood Christian faithful, but the Lions left little doubt in Saturday’s title game, claiming a decisive victory over Fairhope to clinch the Class 5A state crown.

Briarwood (24-4-1) downed Fairhope 4-1 for the championship after edging Northridge of Tuscaloosa the previous day.

&uot;Going into the tournament we were the No. 1 team in the state,&uot; Briarwood coach Mark Wallace said. &uot;So you’ve got sort of that bullseye on you.&uot;

While opposing teams came gunning for the Lions, Wallace said Briarwood might have needed a little jolt to really get going.

It came when Lions found themselves tied with Northridge for much of the first half in the semifinal.

&uot;We kept them around the whole first half,&uot; Wallace said. &uot;You hate to have to have a wakeup call at this point in the season, but that’s pretty much what it was for us.&uot;

Briarwood scored with 15 minutes remaining to take a 3-1 lead, but watched it cut to one when Northridge took advantage of the Lions’ celebration.

Northridge was able to answer with a quick goal of its own just after the whistle with Briarwood players not yet back in position.

Northridge later added another goal to tie the game at 3.

&uot;Our guys were totally stunned at that point,&uot; Wallace said.

Ben Bludsworth scored with just seven seconds remaining to advance the Lions to the championship game.

The large size and shaved heads of the Fairhope players weren’t enough to intimidate the Lions in the championship game, Wallace said.

Briarwood had faced many big, physical teams all season including 6A powers like Vestavia Hills.

&uot;We had even beaten Vestavia once this year,&uot; Wallace said.

Briarwood struck first against Fairhope when Matt Wallace scored on an assist from brother Andrew.

M.J. Tehini and Bludsworth each scored in the second half and Wallace also added his second goal of the game.

Tehini was named tournament MVP