Lions power their way to semifinals

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

KIMBERLY – A trip to the semifinals of the Class 5A AHSAA playoffs was on the line when Briarwood and Mortimer Jordan met on the football field Friday night, Nov. 18 in a rematch of a game that took place back on Sept. 23. Just like the first matchup, the Lions would come out victorious in this game after taking down the Blue Devils by a final of 15-0.

The first half was nothing but a stalemate of defensive battles and stalled drives around midfield as both teams fought to a 0-0 halftime tie. Mortimer Jordan’s Spencer Brown and Briarwood’s JR Tran-Reno were both running tough, but neither team had anything to show for it.

“This went right according to script,” said Lions head coach Fred Yancey. “They could’ve beaten us and we could’ve beaten them. We just had two good teams playing really hard.”

The start of the second half looked eerily similar to the first with both teams coming out and neither moving the ball. You got the sense that whichever team made the first mistake would be the one that went on to lose.

That mistake came with about 6 minutes left in the third quarter. After forcing Briarwood to a three and out, Mortimer Jordan was set to return a punt. On the return they got a 15-yard personal foul called against them, which set them up deep in their own territory.

The Blue Devils eventually had a third and three before they were assessed another penalty, this time for a false start. They failed to convert on third and long and were forced to punt the ball away. Mortimer Jordan ended up shanking the punt and just like that in a span of five plays, Briarwood was set up on the Blue Devils’ 30-yard line with a great chance to score.

One play later, they took advantage when senior quarterback William Gray found Carson Eddy deep down the far sideline for a 30-yard touchdown pass. Eddy ran in the two-point conversion as well to put the Lions on top 8-0 late in the third quarter.

“We were both playing so even that it was just going to take one little something to help the other team out and that’s what happened,” Yancey said.

That was all the Briarwood defense needed as they dominated the game really from start to finish, but especially in the second half. They forced the Blue Devils into three three and outs, forced a fumble and had a big sack that set up a third and 18 that Mortimer Jordan wasn’t able to convert.

“Both teams were really rockin and sockin and there just wasn’t any bend by either team,” Yancey said.

Still holding an 8-0 lead, Briarwood got the ball back with just over seven minutes left in the game on their own 18-yard line. The Lions went on an 11-play drive that took over four minutes of time off the clock. After a big 25-yard run earlier on the drive, Tran-Reno capped the drive off with a 12-yard touchdown run that saw the athletic sophomore take flight and hurdle over a would be tackler at the 5-yard line before powering his way into the end zone to put the Lions up 15-0 after the extra point.

“I was actually really tired,” Tran-Reno said. “So when I got the ball I had great perimeter blocking and saw I had one guy to beat, so I just thought I would jump over him.”

Tran-Reno ended the night with 161 yards on 24 carries.

Briarwood now moves on to the semifinals for the first time since 2011 and get a break with Class 5A No. 1 Scottsboro losing to Wenonah on Friday night. Not only does this mean the Lions avoid playing the No. 1 team in the state on the road, but it also means they will host a Wenonah team at home they beat 15-14 on the road earlier this season.

The semifinal game will take place at Briarwood on Friday, Nov. 25 at 7 p.m.

“It’s a lot of fun, these guys that are seniors are really excited about this whole season and are excited for what’s to come,” Yancey said.