Briarwood hangs on, downs Anniston, 21-13

It was senior night at Briarwood Christian School, but it turned out to be quite a night for the Lions defense as well. The tenth-ranked Lions rode the shoulders of its defense to a 21-13 victory over the visiting Anniston Bulldogs at Lions Pride Stadium on Friday night.

Coach Fred Yancey and the Lions finish the season at 8-2 and head into familiar territory next Friday in the playoffs, but Anniston proved to be a tougher opponent than many might have thought.

The Lions got off to a good start, scoring on their first drive. Junior quarterback Paul Barber topped off the 83-yard drive with a 41-yard touchdown pass to Chandler Packard and an early 7-0 lead.

The Briarwood defense stifled the Bulldog offense on their second straight drive, forcing them to punt. Following another 44-yard connection from Barber to Packard, the Lions appeared to be right on track for a rout of the visitors.

However, a long touchdown pass was negated due to offensive pass interference, and the Lions missed a 27-yard field goal attempt.

The Lions took a slim 7-0 lead into halftime.

“The coaches stressed to our kids that we needed to focus,” Yancey said. “We came out of the locker room [at halftime] refreshed and ready to play.”

The Lions’ offense took the coaches’ message of focus to heart, taking the opening drive 91 yards for a touchdown on a 19-yard pass from Barber to Ben Bracewell.

The Lions looked to be in control, ahead 14-0. But the Bulldogs weren’t going down without a fight.

A 62-yard pass to the Briarwood 9 helped set up a 7-yard touchdown pass to Bulldog receiver Michael Boone from Josiah Atkins. Anniston’s quick strike closed Briarwood’s lead to 14-7 a little more than halfway through the third quarter.

A defensive stand and another quick score pulled the Bulldogs to 14-13, but a missed extra point helped ensure that the Lions would never relinquish the lead in the game.

Anniston refused to go down easily, though, and challenged Briarwood’s defense to a duel over the last quarter and a half.

The Lions’ defense answered the challenge with three interceptions to finish out the game. Junior defensive back Trevor Hightower picked off an errant Anniston pass, setting up a 30-yard touchdown pass from Barber to Ramsey White. Two late interceptions, one by J.T. Davis and another by John Morrow, preserved the win for Briarwood.

Barber finished the regular season with a strong passing game statistically, going 19-of-32 for 309 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Bracewell paced the Lions with 89 yards on 11 carries.

“These guys really played tough and focused on the game,” Yancey said. “We’re excited to be heading into the playoffs to face a very good team in Greenville.”

The Lions open the playoffs at home against the Greenville Tigers next Friday at 7 p.m.