Briarwood gets redemption, shuts down Wenonah 34-0 in top 5 matchup

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

NORTH SHELBY – The storyline was set. One team went to the state championship a year ago, while the other was left heartbroken on their home field, coming up one game short.

That was the reality after Briarwood fell to Wenonah 14-8 in the semifinals of the 5A state playoffs last season, setting up a monster rematch of the two on Friday, Sept. 15, as the Lions came in as the No. 1 team and the Dragons the No. 5 team.

Briarwood clearly came out with an edge and it showed on both sides of the ball from the very start as they went on to dominate the No. 5 team in Class 5A, by shutting them out 34-0.

They did so behind a strong game defensively by Andrew Sherrod, who had a pick six and several pass-breakups, as well as quarterback Michael Hiers, who finished the night 10-14 for 215 yards and three touchdowns through the air and an additional touchdown on the ground.

“I’ll be real honest, I did not expect it to go the way it went, but it was just our night to be hot,” Lions’ head coach Fred Yancey said. “Our defense has been pretty consistent through the first two games and the offense has sputtered some, but tonight they all put it together pretty good.”

Early in the game, it looked eerily similar to last year’s semifinal loss as they squandered away two great opportunities following a strong opening drive that ended with an interception on the Wenonah 10-yard line and a bad punt setting them up in good field position shortly after that the Lions were unable to take advantage of.

Finally, a little over halfway through the opening quarter, Briarwood forced a fumble that was recovered by Patrick Blythe and set the Lions up with a first and 10 on the Wenonah 26-yard line.

It took one play for Briarwood to get inside the 5-yard line as sophomore running back Luke Prewett picked up a 22-yard run to the 4-yard line on first down.

It started to look as if the Lions were going to let another great opportunity slip away as they lost yards on their next two plays and a hold set them up with third and goal from the 19-yard line.

Somehow, tight end Noah Whatley slipped right up the middle of the field unseen on third down and was able to catch the ball around the 5-yard line, before powering his way into the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown reception with four seconds left in the first quarter.

Wenonah faced a second and 19 on its ensuing drive and decided to try a flea-flicker, but the pass was floated over the middle of the field into double coverage. It eventually found its way into Sherrod’s hands as he took it 45 yards to the house for a pick six.

“Tonight we just got off to such a fast start that it kind of took the wind out of their sails and that was so important for us,” Yancey said.

After forcing another three-and-out, Briarwood really put the hammer on its ensuing drive when Prewett ran for 29 yards on the first play of the drive, followed by an 11-yard run from Tran-Reno and a 14-yard touchdown run from Hiers to give them a 20-0 lead.

One drive later, it took just one play for Briarwood to extend their lead as Hiers found Tran-Reno on a crossing route for a 59-yard touchdown pass to extend the lead to 27-0 at the half.

The fast start was just too much for the Dragons to overcome as Briarwood continued to run away with it before winning by the final score of 34-0.

“Eery aspect of the game, we played amazing tonight,” Hiers said after. “The defense is unbelievable, the O-line did their job, the receivers caught everything; it was just a great win.”

When asked about the redemption factor from last year’s game, Hiers gave a short and to the point answer.

“It felt very good. I didn’t expect it to be that big, but it felt very good,” he said.

The Lions are now 3-0 overall on the young season and 2-0 in region play with their toughest game now behind them. Briarwood will travel to Fairfield on Friday, Sept. 22.

“We’ve been working really hard in the offseason and this will help give us that push for the playoffs that we want,” Sherrod said. “We’ve just got to take it one game at a time, but with our team clicking like this it’s going to be lethal.”

For more photos visit Shelbycountyphotos.com