Briarwood falls in second round to Austin

Published 10:31 pm Friday, November 13, 2015

Briarwood's William Gray is dragged down by a host of Austin defenders during the Lions' 6A second round matchup at home against the Black Bears. Briarwood fell by a final of 27-0. (Reporter Photo / Baker Ellis)

Briarwood’s William Gray is dragged down by a host of Austin defenders during the Lions’ 6A second round matchup at home against the Black Bears. Briarwood fell by a final of 27-0. (Reporter Photo / Baker Ellis)

By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Editor

NORTH SHELBY – A week after the Briarwood Lions sent shockwaves across the state with their upset of 6A Region 7 champ Fort Payne, the Lions hosted the No. 2 team from Region 8, the Austin Black Bears. The Lions fought valiantly, especially on the defensive side of the ball, but were simply no match for a high-powered Austin attack, and fell 27-0.

From the jump, the Lions played well defensively across the defensive line. Carter Bankston and company played about as well as possible against a towering Austin front five. Run after run was gobbled up in the heart of the Lion defense in the first half.

“We defended Austin probably about as well as they’ve been defended this year,” Briarwood head coach Fred Yancey said after the game. “They just have a tremendous team, and they were the better team. But I was proud of the way our boys really battled them all night.”

On two separated occasions during Austin’s opening drive, Briarwood forced a third and long before Black Bear quarterback Victor Garth twice found streaking receivers for first downs. Garth is a dual-threat quarterback, but did a good job keeping plays alive in the pocket instead of trying to run at every opportunity, although he found success doing both on the night. On second down and 20 from the Briarwood 26, Garth found Timius Lowe across the middle for a touchdown to put Austin up 7-0.

As good as the Briarwood defensive line was on the night, the Austin defensive line was every bit as good if not better. Agile, big and tough all across the front, especially at the defensive end positions, Austin gobbled up essentially every sweep and counter Briarwood threw at the Black Bears. Briarwood did not cross midfield until halfway through the second quarter.

Offensively, Austin was never in much of a hurry. The Black Bears routinely waited until the play clock was below five seconds before snapping the ball. On their second offensive possession of the night, there was a miscommunication in the Briarwood secondary, as Lowe ran, untouched, down the nearside hash as Garth connected with his favorite target for the pairs’ second touchdown of the night on a 54-yard bomb. Austin took a 14-0 lead into the half. The Black Bears had a chance for another touchdown before the half, as they found themselves inside the Briarwood 10-yard line, but RJ Jennings jumped a route at the goal line and picked off an errant Garth pass, keeping the game just a two-score affair at the break.

The backbreaker came on Austin’s first possession of the second half. The Lion defense was called for back-to-back 15-yard facemask penalties, greatly aiding the Black Bears drive. However, Briarwood held and forced a fourth and 21 situation from the Lions 31. Austin went for it, and Garth connected with Lowe for yet another touchdown. The Briarwood secondary read the play, but simply couldn’t react quickly enough to stop Lowe finding the end zone for a third time, and Austin took a 20-0 lead early in the third.

Briarwood had a chance to put points on the board early in the fourth on the back of its best, most sustained offensive series, and the Lions found themselves at the Austin six yard line. However, quarterback William Gray was sacked, and suddenly Briarwood was facing a fourth and goal from the 12. The Briarwood offense had trouble holding onto the ball all night, and Gray let the ball slip out of his hand on the ensuing play, falling harmlessly to the turf as the Lions turned the ball over on downs.

Garth added another 11-yard touchdown scamper in the fourth, but the outcome in this one was never truly in much doubt from the jump.

Despite the outcome, Yancey was still proud of his team for their performance this season.

“It was never easy, but it was oftentimes fun,” Yancey said. “And every time it was satisfying with the ways these boys fought. I was proud of them.”

Briarwood finished the 2015 season with a 5-7 record and an appearance in the second round of the 6A playoffs.