Briarwood falls to Randolph in state championship for 2nd straight year

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

HUNTSVILLE – For the second consecutive year, the Briarwood Christian Lions boys soccer team didn’t have an answer for the Randolph Raiders after taking a one-goal lead in the Class 4A-5A State Championship held at John Hunt Park in Huntsville on Friday, May 11.

Last year, the Lions took a 2-1 lead early in the first half before giving up two unanswered goals late in the game to fall by a final of 3-2. In 2018, Briarwood struck first to take a 1-0 lead, but Randolph responded yet again with five unanswered goals the rest of the way to take the state championship game by a final score of 5-1.

It was a disappointing end to the season for a Briarwood team that had won 21 consecutive games coming into the state championship matchup, but injuries were just too much to overcome down the stretch.

With one of the best players on the team in junior forward Hamilton Bowen being injured, the Lions were down a legitimate scoring threat, while several others were battling through injuries to play.

Still though, Briarwood had one of the best forwards in the state in Logan Frost ready to go and he made his presence known early on.

Just 5:21 into the game, Frost got the ball on the other side of the midfield line and sprinted all the way to the other end of the field before eventually finding himself just inside the left-hand side of the goalie box where he centered a pass that rolled in off a Randolph defender to put the Lions on top 1-0.

Less than seven minutes later, however, the Raiders answered with a big goal from Sean O’Hare, who tied the game 1-1 with 26:03 to go in the half.

That seemed to flip a switch for Randolph as they got several more looks at the goal over the next few minutes after turning up the pressure.

At one point, the Raiders had an empty net with the Briarwood goalkeeper on the ground, but the Lions’ defense stepped up as it had in the 4-0 win over St. Paul’s the day before by getting legs on two different shots in the box before clearing the ball.

Briarwood almost escaped the first half with a 1-1 tie, but the pressure by Randolph eventually became too much. With 1:16 left until the half, Parker League was able to put home another goal home for the Raiders to give them a 2-1 lead at the break after two unanswered goals.

After a fiery halftime speech from Briarwood head coach Shawn Brower, the Lions were hopeful and ready to come out with a new level of energy, but Randolph had gained a ton of confidence.

It took less than five minutes for the Raiders to extend their lead in the second half as Sam Hartley got into the goalie box with ease before burying another shot to put Randolph up 3-1.

That was all the Raiders needed as Briarwood looked defeated after the goal. Shortly after, Randolph added a fourth goal to go up 4-1 with 31:42 to play.

Sridhar Karne added the final blow late in the game with just less than 15 minutes remaining to put Randolph up by the winning score of 5-1.

Briarwood seniors such as Bryant Wood, Grant Fielding and Griffin Felton were all emotional after their final game, but teammates were right there hugging and supporting them after the game, knowing that despite not achieving their ultimate goal, it was still an incredibly special season.

The Lions finished the season with a 23-3-1 record and winners of 21 of their last 22 games. Briarwood will return its top two forwards in Frost and Bowen next year along with several other key contributors, but gone will be their best defender in Wood and their starting keeper in Fielding.