Spain Park earns rematch with Hoover
By WESLEY HALLMAN / Sports Editor
NORTHPORT — Spain Park High School senior Alex Payne remembered the feeling he had walking onto the field at Buccaneer Stadium with a cast on his wrist before the winless Jaguars took on rival Hoover in the second week of the season.
Payne, who missed a majority of the regular season including the Hoover game with a broken bone in his hand, felt like a completely different Spain Park team headed into the locker room following a 35-13 win on the road at Tuscaloosa County in the first round of the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 6A playoffs Nov. 5.
“It’s night and day,” Payne said.
Payne and the Jaguars (6-5) will get another shot at the Bucs, who defeated Spain Park 44-0 in their regular-season meeting in Class 6A, Region 6 play, in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs Nov. 12 at Regions Park.
Interim head coach Ben Berguson said the Jaguars will enter the second meeting with Hoover in a much different mindset.
“It’s really amazing what this team has accomplished,” Berguson said.
Coming off a loss to Clay-Chalkville in their final regular season game, the Jaguars wasted no time putting the setback behind them.
Sophomore quarterback Nick Mullens completed 21-of-34 passes for 298 yards and four touchdowns without an interception.
Junior Reid Reinagel, who started the season at quarterback, reeled in 10 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns. Zak Michael caught four passes for 68 yards and two touchdowns.
Berguson praised the trio following an impressive showing in the playoff win.
“Zak did a great job and Reid had a huge night,” Berguson said. “And Nick Mullens has grown up so much over the last 10 weeks. He’s gotten better every week.”
Following a missed field goal on its first offensive possession and punt on its second drive, Spain Park put the its first points on the scoreboard following a 74-yard bomb from Mullens to Reinagel with 47 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Jake Hoffman added the extra point to give the Jaguars an early 7-0 lead.
Mullens completed 3-of-4 passes on a scoring drive midway through the second quarter, which was capped by a 3-yard touchdown run by Alex Roberson, to push the lead to 14-0 following Hoffman’s extra point with 7:51 remaining in the first half.
Tuscaloosa County scored its first touchdown on the ground with 1:43 left in the first half. The Jaguars blocked the point-after attempt to take a 14-6 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Mullens completed 9-of-14 passes for 165 yards in the first half. Reinagel had five catches for 132 yards in the opening half.
Spain Park capped its first drive of the second half with a 16-yard touchdown strike from Mullens to Michael to push its lead to 21-6 following Hoffman’s extra point with 9:27 left in the third quarter.
The Jaguars missed another field-goal attempt in the third quarter and Tuscaloosa County scored a touchdown through the air late in the quarter to cut the lead to 21-13.
Spain Park responded with two fourth quarter touchdowns to put the game on ice.
Reinagel caught a 22-yard touchdown reception from Mullens with 8:33 left in the game. Michael reeled in a 16-yard touchdown strike from Mullens to cap the scoring with 58 seconds left in the Jaguars’ playoff opener.
Despite the outcome in the playoff meeting with Hoover, Payne said he will have great memories from his adversity-filled senior season.
“The coaches never gave up on us,” Payne said. “I’m so proud of this team. I love everyone out here.”