Turnovers plague Briarwood in loss at Spanish Fort

Five turnovers and a costly third-quarter penalty proved to be the difference in the game Friday night as the Spanish Fort Toros took a second half lead and held on for the Class 5A quarterfinal victory over the Briarwood Christian Lions, 21-7.

“It was the turnovers that killed us,” Briarwood head coach Fred Yancey said. “Anytime you play a great team like Spanish Fort and turn the ball over like we did, you’re not going to win.”

Neither team could get much going in the first quarter as the teams traded turnovers on the first three possessions.

Spanish Fort’s Ross Davis picked off his first pass of the game on Briarwood’s opening drive, but the Lions got the ball right back when Toro quarterback Patrick McGavin lost a snap and Cannon Smith recovered.

The Lions (9-4) turned the ball right back over on the ensuing possession when Garret Horst picked off his first pass of the game to kill the Briarwood drive.

“They kept us backed up in our own territory much of the first half and our defense came up big, play after play after play, series after series after series,” Spanish Fort head coach Bryant Vincent said.

In the second quarter, both offenses found their groove, starting with Briarwood when Zeke Walters took the ball in from 1 yard out to give the Lions a 7-0 lead following Wilson Whorter’s extra-point kick.

The Toros (11-2) answered right back when McGavin connected with Davis for a 53-yard strike to setup a 1-yard sneak by McGavin to tie the game at 7-7.

Briarwood quarterback Paul Barber threw his third interception of the half as Horst pulled down his second pick of the game, but the Toros failed to capitalize on the turnover when kicker Derrick Hosch missed a 37-yard field goal with just 23 seconds remaining before the half.

In the third quarter, a Briarwood offsides penalty on fourth-and-4 gave the Toros an automatic first down, and Spanish Fort took advantage of the miscue, scoring three plays later on a 20-yard strike from McGavin to Billy Harris to cap a 12-play drive and take the lead, 14-7.

The Lions held the ball for just three plays on the next possession, and for the entire third quarter, as Barber’s option pitch hit the turf and was recovered by Garrett Beech.

The Toros controlled the ball for the remainder of the quarter and then punched the ball in from 1 yard out in the final quarter to close out the scoring.

The Lions crossed midfield two more times in the final minutes, but Barber’s fourth interception of the game, this time in the end zone, ended Briarwood’s chance of a comeback.

“For us to hold Briarwood Christian to seven points is a tremendous accomplishment,” said Vincent.

Offensively for the Lions, Barber was 20-of-37 for 195 yards and four interceptions.

Running back Sam Whitaker was the team’s leading rusher and receiver, rushing eight times for 60 yards and catching seven passes for 66 yards.

For Spanish Fort, McGavin accounted for 281 of the team’s 288 yards, including a near-perfect 13-of-16 effort for 154 yards and one touchdown through the air and 23 carries for 127 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.