Lions crush Hornets’ hopes

Briarwood’s spirit banner couldn’t have summed up Friday’s game any better. With a red can of hornet killer, it read, “Raid the Hornets.”

Moments after the Lions ripped through the banner, Chelsea resident Ben Bracewell ripped through the Hornets’ defense en route to a 50-yard touchdown run on Briarwood’s second possession.

The touchdown helped set the tone for Briarwood in a 21-0 first quarter and 34-12 victory that killed Chelsea’s post season hopes.

“I think it helped set the tone, but I don’t think it set the tone. Our defense set the tone,” Bracewell said.

The defense held Chelsea to 39 yards of offense in three possessions in the first quarter, giving the offense a shot at the end zone. Already up, 7-0, Briarwood quarterback Paul Barber rolled out and tucked the ball in on 35-yard dash down the left sideline to enhance the lead by a touchdown. After holding Chelsea three-and-out, Barber threw for his only touchdown pass of the night to Connor Hodges with six seconds left to go in the quarter.

“We were real explosive in the first quarter. I sure am tickled at that. Give Chelsea credit though. They didn’t lay down. They fought us hard all the way,” Briarwood head coach Fred Yancey said.

While the first quarter was filled with big-play offense, the second and third quarters were silent.

Chelsea scored its first touchdown with 5:17 to play in the third quarter on a 16-yard pass by Blake Yance to Zac Hilliard on fourth down. Austin Rikard’s point-after kick was wide right, leaving the score 21-6. The Hornets’ scoring drive was the result of a Briarwood fumble.

Moments later, Josh Ankensheiln picked off a pass in the end zone to begin a drive that ended in a 71-yard touchdown pass to Luke Moore to make it 21-12. Trevor Hightower batted Yance’s 2-point pass down. Yance finished the night with 150 yards passing.

Briarwood’s defense tightened its belt in the fourth quarter to keep Chelsea from gaining any more momentum.

“We knew that we had to stop them,” said senior defensive back Evan Simmons, who lives in the same neighborhood as Yance. “They had a good offense and we just needed to come to play.”

Chelsea’s attack was put down with the help of three interceptions, two by Cooper Herrington and one by Phillip Ketcham, and two more touchdowns on offense.

Alex Hall and Bracewell each rushed for fourth-quarter touchdowns.

The loss surprised Chelsea and ended a six-year postseason streak. Senior Zac Hilliard and other older players aren’t used to the idea of staying at home.

“We wre kind of surprised. We came in with a lot of intensity. We were pumped and ready for this game and we kind of sagged down,” Hilliard said. “We played our hearts out tonight. This is the first time we’ve played together as a group and that makes me proud.”

Hilliard said just because the Hornets’ season will end Oct. 31, it doesn’t meant that they are going to be an easy target the next tree weeks.

“We’re not going to lay down. That’s been Chelsea football to never lay down and never quit,” Hilliard said.

Chelsea head coach Wade Waldrop also recognizes the full game approach that his team showed tonight for the first time in seven games.

“I hope that our kids can come out with that intensity and that passion that we’ve had all year. It’s a little late, but I’m glad to see that,” Waldrop said.

Briarwood will travel to Sylacauga for a key region game, while Chelsea will host Hazel Green for homecoming.