Briarwood holds on against Rebels

In a game that had more momentum swings than plays, Briarwood snuck out a sloppy victory to start the season.

Vestavia (0-1) had the first chance to get on the board, but on their second play from scrimmage fumbled — the first of a combined eight total turnovers in the game.

Briarwood could not convert on the great field position. On what looked like to be a sure touchdown, quarterback Paul Barber’s pass was tipped and fell into the hands of a Rebel safety.

Vestavia had another break go their way when they were forced to punt after only six plays, but the return was muffed and recovered by the Rebels.

Nine plays and 58 yards later, Vestavia took the lead on a 5-yard fade pass from Rebels quarterback Ryan Howard to wide receiver William Hutson. Michael O’Neal converted the point after to extend the lead to 7-0 with 3:39 remaining in the first.

Briarwood came back down the field on their next drive, marching 80 yards in nine plays, capped off by halfback Caleb Castille’s 5-yard touchdown run.

Barber went 5-6 on the drive for 68 yards. Wilson Whorton split the uprights to draw the game even at 7-7 with 29 seconds left in the first quarter.

Vestavia would convert on Briarwood’s third turnover of the night on a quick strike two play drive highlighted by Howard’s second touchdown pass — this time to Jordan Howard for 54 yards. O’Neal made the game 14-7, where it would stay till half.

The second half was marred by more sloppy play by the Lions.

Briarwood bent but did not break.

Vestavia missed its second long field goal attempt in the game with 6:10 left in the fourth quarter.

The Lions started what proved to be their game-winning drive from their own 27 yard line.

Clutch play after play was executed by the Briarwood offense, putting the team in position to possibly draw even with a touchdown and extra point.

Briarwood scored on a third and goal play.

Coach Yancey called the first of two gadget plays that would have the fans not believing what they were witnessing. A halfback pass by Castille to Zeke Walters pulled the Lions to within one point.

“We ran that play against Homewood last year, so I know we could do it,” said wide receiver Zeke Walters.

After a timeout, the Lions looked to be lining up for an extra point that would force an overtime, but a quick snap to Ramsey White, and his ability to avoid the Rebel defense, bought him enough time to throw up a prayer which was answered in the form of Walters.

The two-point conversion put the Lions up, 15-14.

“Coach has guts to make that play call. I was praying that we would somehow get it in the end zone, and I thank God that we did,” Walters said.

Vestavia would have one more chance to win with 1:19 left on the clock.

They managed a huge fourth down conversion and were aided by a pass interference penalty with no time left on the clock to allow them one last field goal attempt to win.

The 27-yard field goal attempt was blocked shocking the Vestavia faithful and allowing the Briarwood crowd to exhale.

“Man, I was just praying that our defense could hold. They did a great job all night allowing us to stay in the game,” said Paul Barber after the victory.