Briarwood sets up playoff rematch with Carver

For Briarwood Christian School senior quarterback Paul Barber, the Lions’ matchup with Chilton County in the first round of the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 5A playoffs Friday night wasn’t insignificant.

It just wasn’t the playoff game he’s had his eyes set on. The game Barber has looked forward to is a playoff rematch with Carver High of Montgomery, which will be played next Friday night at Lions Pride Stadium following Briarwood’s 39-14 win over Chilton County.

“That’s a personal game,” said Barber of the meeting with Carver, which knocked the Lions out of the Class 5A playoffs in 2008.

Barber played a big role in setting up the rematch. Barber completed 11-of-13 passes for 280 yards with four touchdown passes. Barber threw three touchdown passes covering 40 yards or more.

“Paul is doing a very good job of not making mistakes and making big plays,” said Briarwood head coach Fred Yancey.

The Briarwood defense also played a key role in the victory, as the Lions recovered four Chilton County fumbles and intercepted two passes, including one by cornerback Caleb Castille in the second quarter.

“We’ve just basically changed our whole mentality,” said Castille, who began the season as a receiver. “We’re playing with more tenacity.”

The tenacious Briarwood defense helped the Lions (8-3) jump out to an early lead. Chad Davis recovered the first fumble for Briarwood, ending a Chilton County drive at the Lions’ 26-yard line. Justin Shade also recovered a fumble in the second quarter, which set up a 32-yard field goal by Wilson Whorton to give Briarwood a 3-0 lead with 9:14 left in the first half.

The Lions recovered a third Chilton County fumble midway through the second quarter, which set up a 92-yard touchdown pass by Barber to J.D McDurmont. Whorton added the extra point to push the Lions’ lead to 10-0 with 5:40 remaining in the quarter.

Following Castille’s interception, Barber dumped a short pass to Conner Hodges, who raced into the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown as time expired in the opening half. Hodges ran it in from 3 yards out on the 2-point conversion to give the Lions an 18-0 lead heading into the locker room at halftime.

Briarwood wasted little time getting its offense going in the second half, as Barber found Hodges open down the sideline for a 77-yard touchdown and Whorton added another extra point less than two minutes into the third quarter to push the Lions’ lead to 25-0.

Chilton County scored its first touchdown of the game on an 8-yard touchdown pass with 5:43 left in the third quarter to cut the lead to 25-7.

Linebacker Zeke Walters moved over to the offensive side of the ball and responded with a 2-yard touchdown run and Whorton added the extra point to give Briarwood a 32-7 lead with 2:37 left in the third quarter.

Barber capped the Lions’ scoring with a 43-yard touchdown pass to Devin Bowman with 20 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Whorton added the point-after-touchdown as the Lions extended their lead to 39-7.

Chilton County scored the final touchdown of the game on a 3-yard run with 1:45 left in the fourth quarter.

Hodges finished with three receptions for 100 yards. Bowman had two catches for 51 yards. Sam Whitaker had four receptions for 33 yards.

Cooper Harrington had two carries for a team-high 30 rushing yards. Jake Alfano rushed for 28 yards on three carries. Matthew Furuto had 23 yards on four carries. Barber finished with 22 yards on seven carries.

Phillip Ketcham had one of two Briarwood interceptions. Yancey praised his team’s defensive effort, which made things easy for the Briarwood offense.

“Our defense caused a lot of turnovers,” Yancey said. “That was a blessing, because (Chilton County) is a really good offensive team.”

Linebacker Sam Shade said the defense didn’t have any trouble getting motivated for the playoff game.

“We don’t want to go home,” Shade said. “You’ve got to give everything you have.”

Castille said the Lions will be ready for the playoff rematch with Carver following the Rams’ 21-13 win over Briarwood in the 2008 Class 5A playoffs.

“We’re looking forward to it,” Castille said. “(Carver) better be ready.”

Yancey said he doesn’t know a lot about this year’s Carver squad, but he knows enough to be concerned.

“We don’t know a lot about them, but they’re 10-1 and that scares me to death,” Yancey said.