Briarwood seals up postseason berth

By CLAYTON HURDLE / Staff Writer

BIRMINGHAM – The Briarwood Christian Lions scored 19 third-quarter points en route to a 32-13 win over host John Carroll Friday night.

The win gave Briarwood (4-5, 4-3 Class 5A Region 4) the final spot in the AHSAA Class 5A playoffs from Region 4.

“Our boys had a goal to make it to the playoffs and they had to come out and fight hard,” Briarwood head coach Fred Yancey said. “Thankfully, they did.”

The first half was a defensive struggle as Briarwood quarterback Stewart Wilkins threw three interceptions.

Wilkins’ first interception ended an eight-play drive deep into Cavalier territory. Matthew Byers came up with the pick for Carroll two minutes into the game.

Wilkins’ second interception of the game came after a 23-yard Trent Marshall field goal put the Cavs up 3-0 late in the first.

Mitchell Byrd intercepted a pass intended for Brayden Housel in the John Carroll end zone with a minute and a half left in the quarter.

Briarwood’s defense scored the only touchdown of the first half. Jordan Carroll recovered a failed John Carroll punt attempt in the end zone.

After a failed two-point conversion the Lions led 6-3 nine seconds into the second quarter.

Neither team scored for the next 11 minutes and 43 seconds. Wilkins’ third pick of the night set up a 15-play drive for the Cavaliers.

Another 23-yard Marshall field goal capped the drive, which was twice kept alive by fourth-down Briarwood penalties for a 6-6 score at halftime.

“Before the game, I told the guys that if we were close at halftime we were in good shape,” Yancey said. “I reminded them about that at halftime and they came through really well in the third quarter.”

The Lions blew the game open in the third quarter. Kennith Johnson coughed up the ball at the Cavaliers’ 23 at the 11:23 mark and Wilkins connected with Daniel Robert on the very next play for a 12-6 Briarwood lead.

Briarwood was back on the board at the 7:50 mark as Robert recovered a fumbled Samuel Morris pass reception in the end zone. The Lions’ third failed two-point conversion left the score at 18-6.

It took four plays for the Lions to cover 60 yards for their next touchdown just inside of three minutes to play in the quarter.

A 39-yard pass from Wilkins to Housel and two Jordan DePaolantonio runs set Briarwood up for a six-yard Wilkins touchdown strike to Reagan White.

The Jordan Box extra point put the Lions up 25-6.

Two Briarwood personal fouls helped set the Cavaliers up in scoring position as the third quarter expired.

Wesley Dismuke carried the ball in from a yard out on the fourth quarter’s second play to narrow the Lions’ lead to 25-13.

Jordan Carroll recovered another John Carroll fumble with 9:50 left in the game. This set Briarwood up for a five-play, 37-yard scoring drive that all but iced things for the Lions.

Wilkins threw his third touchdown of the half with an 18-yard pass to Robert to make the score 32-13.

“Going into the locker room I thought about what I needed to do differently,” Wilkins said. “I had a different thought process and tried to not be nervous and it worked out.”

The touchdown was also Robert’s third of the game.

The last eight and a half minutes of the game were scoreless as the 32-13 score proved to be final.

“We didn’t meet all our goals from the beginning of the season,” Robert said, “but we got into the playoffs and who knows what could happen after that. Hopefully we’ll be able to make a run.”

The Lions will proceed to face undefeated Jackson in the Class 5A playoffs after a non-regional game at Pinson Valley, while John Carroll’s season will be over after a non-regional game at Thompson.

“You get in a ballgame like this and you can’t have turnovers,” John Carroll coach Chris Musso said. “We had too many turnovers at crucial times.

“Give hats off to Coach Yancey and his squad; they did a fantastic job.”