Miracle ending leads Briarwood to Class 5A quarterfinals

Briarwood Christian School junior Cooper Harrington reeled in a deep pass, broke free of a Carver High School of Montgomery defender and powered ahead into the end zone, completing a 59-yard pass play with a little more than a minute left in the game.

The Briarwood band blasted and the students took their positions behind the football team, ready to storm the field when the clock reached zero.

After the Lions’ defense held strong the final minute of Friday night’s matchup, hundreds of Briarwood fans, football players and students rushed onto the field to celebrate the Lions’ 31-28 victory over the Wolverines in the second round of the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 5A playoffs.

Carver defeated the Lions in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs in 2008. With the win, Briarwood (9-3) will travel to Mobile to face Spanish Fort (9-2) next Friday night in the Class 5A quarterfinals.

“It feels great to move on,” said Briarwood head coach Fred Yancey. “I congratulate Carver-Montgomery. They had a class team and a great team.

“We are very excited to have beat a very good team tonight,” Yancey added. “I feel good about going down south next week. That’s just the nature of this game. Every time you win a game, another great team is waiting for you.”

Despite a strong first-half showing on both sides of the ball, the Lions began to slip after halftime, allowing 22 unanswered points in the final two quarters.

The Wolverines were first to strike in the first quarter, when a Carver-Montgomery interception on the 35-yard line set up a 20-yard touchdown run by the Wolverines’ Stanley Robinson. A missed extra point put Carver-Montgomery on top 6-0.

But the Lions added a pair of scores on back-to-back drives late in the second quarter. The first came when Briarwood’s Devin Bowman reeled in a 23-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Paul Barber. Wilson Whorton’s extra point gave the Lions a 7-6 advantage.

Briarwood scored again minutes later when Barber connected with Connor Hodges on a 21-yard pass into the end zone. Whorton’s point-after-touchdown put the Lions on top 14-6 going into halftime.

Briarwood added to its lead midway through the third quarter when Barber again connected with Hodges on a 30-yard touchdown pass. The Lions jumped on top 21-6 after Whorton’s extra point.

But the Wolverines began marching late in the third quarter, when Robinson powered into the end zone from 8 yards out. Carver-Montgomery’s successful 2-point conversion brought the score to 21-14.

The Wolverines scored again two possessions later, when Carver-Montgomery’s Clarence Young intercepted Barber’s pass at the Wolverines’ 26-yard line and returned the ball 74 yards for a touchdown. A missed extra point narrowed the game to 21-20.

Carver-Montgomery gained its second lead of the game early in the fourth quarter when Antonio Pitts reeled in a 34-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Reginald Aaron. After a successful 2-point conversion, the Wolverines were on top 28-21.

Whorton’s 32-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter brought the score to 28-24, shortly before Harrington’s touchdown run sealed the Lions’ victory.

Barber completed 20-of-33 passes for 295 yards and four touchdowns with one interception in the win. Harrington was the Lions’ leading receiver with 125 yards on nine receptions.

J.D. McDurmont added 55 yards on two catches. Conner Hodges had 51 yards on two receptions.

Barber rushed for 36 of the Lions’ 42 yards on the ground in the win.

Briarwood is back in the Class 5A quarterfinals for the first time since a run to the championship game in 2007.