Briarwood falls to Jackson-Olin in close contest

Published 11:47 pm Thursday, September 3, 2015

Sam Sherrod dives into the endzone during Briarwood's Sept. 3 matchup with Jackson-Olin. (Reporter Photo / Baker Ellis)

Sam Sherrod dives into the endzone during Briarwood’s Sept. 3 matchup with Jackson-Olin. (Reporter Photo / Baker Ellis)

By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Editor

BIRMINGHAM – For the second time in less than a week, the Briarwood Lions took the football field, and for the second time in less than a week, they lost a heartbreaker. Briarwood traveled to pay regional foe Jackson-Olin a visit on a Thursday night game on Sept. 3. Briarwood was 5-0 all-time against the Mustangs coming into this contest, but Jackson-Olin head coach Tim Vakakes has taken strides to turn the Mustangs program around in his third year, and the Lions fell in a heartbreaker, 26-20.

Carson Eddy breaks free in the first half of Briarwood's Sept. 3 matchup with Jackson-Olin. (Reporter Photo / Baker Ellis)

Carson Eddy breaks free in the first half of Briarwood’s Sept. 3 matchup with Jackson-Olin. (Reporter Photo / Baker Ellis)

Jackson-Olin took the opening kickoff and promptly marched down the field and punched it into the endzone via a 22-yard touchdown run from Jonathan McIntosh. The Mustangs used two quarterbacks all night, running McIntosh out of the wildcat and Bralan Johnson as a more traditional dropback passer. After McIntosh’s scamper, the Mustangs took an early 7-0 lead. A Josh Brower field goal with five minutes left in the first quarter brought the score back to 7-3.

A few drives later, Briarwood found some momentum, started by a nice completed pass to Kolby Kwarcinski from William Gray and expedited by a face mask penalty on the Mustangs. Eventually, Sam Sherrod dove across the goal line from a yard out to give Briarwood the lead at 10-7 with 7:32 left in the second quarter.

After a Mustang punt, Gray threw an ill-advised pick on third and long deep in the Lions territory to set up a Johnson quarterback sneak from one yard out to make the score 14-10 in favor of the home team. Some trickery by Vakakes and the Mustangs sideline in the form of a surprise onside kick gave Jackson-Olin the ball, and all the momentum, right back. On back-to-back plays, Johnson tried to pick on Briarwood cornerback Jake Morris. The first ball that came Morris’ way, he made a nice play on the ball, breaking on it at the precise right moment to keep it out of a streaking McIntosh’s hands. The next play, on virtually the same route and throw, Morris was a second too slow, and McIntosh walked into the end zone on the receiving end of a 49-yard touchdown pass to give the Mustangs a 20-10 lead, which they took into the half.

After a Briarwood three and out to start the second half, Jackson-Olin had the ball deep in its own territory before an ill-timed pitch resulted in a Briarwood touchdown when Sherrod fell on a loose ball in the end zone to pull the score back to 20-17. Later, on a drive engineered by a number of Carson Eddy runs, Brower pumped in his second field goal of the night to bring the score back to 20-20.

The 20-20 score held into the fourth quarter, until Angelo Brown took a handoff and burst through the middle of the Lions defense, untouched, for a 73-yard touchdown run. The extra point attempt was no good, and the Mustangs led again 26-20.

Just like in the Lions’ first game of the year at Chelsea, this one came down to the final drive. Briarwood got the ball back with 5:34 left in the fourth and began to plod down the field. After a number of clutch throws, catches and runs by Gray, Eddy, David Lowry and Luke Dyson, Briarwood had the ball at first and goal from inside the 10 with under two minutes to play. Two broken plays and an incomplete pass gave the Lions a low-percentage fourth and goal from the 16-yard line, and Gray was blitzed and subsequently fumbled the ball away, effectively ending the game.

“They played real good defense all night,” Briarwood head coach Fred Yancey said after the game. “They pressured the passer and made it tough on us. We just had more than we could overcome. We’ve got to learn to play football better than we’re playing right now.”

Briarwood falls to 0-2, but is two, maybe three plays away from being 2-0. The Lions gained 273 yards of offense compared to Jackson-Olin’s 277. Gray was 27-38 throwing the football for 198 yard and a pick, good for a completion percentage of 71 percent, which is impressive for the number of balls he threw. Eddy ran the ball 22 times for 73 yards and the two combined for all but two of the Lions’ total offensive yards. Luke Dyson was Gray’s favorite target, pulling in 10 receptions for 71 yards.

Briarwood will not have much time to regroup, as the Lions will host Homewood on Sept. 11.