Mistakes cost Spain Park in first region game

Published 11:07 pm Friday, September 7, 2018

HOOVER – A possession that began with the promise of a game-winning drive for Spain Park High School on Friday, Sept. 7, instead yielded a turnover that allowed visiting Vestavia Hills to steal a 28-21 win.

With the score tied at 21-all, Spain Park started at its own 10-yard line with 1:27 remaining in the first region game of the year for both teams, and the Jaguars marched down the field with Kameron McDaniel taking a short pass and weaving his way through the defense for 37 yards, then a 16-yard strike from Mason Pronk to Kenyon Hines.

But Vestavia’s Brock Payne ended the drive with an interception on a play in which Pronk was pressured by the Rebels’ defensive front.

After a sack on Vestavia’s first play of the ensuing possession, Cooper Bishop burst through the line and sprinted all the way down to Spain Park’s 5-yard line for a gain of about 60 yards.

Then VHS quarterback Eli Sawyer faked a handoff and passed to his favorite target for the night, tight end Michael Vice Jr., for what would be the game-winning touchdown with 6 seconds left in the game.

The Jaguars (1-2) could not advance the kickoff past their own 35-yard line despite a lateral.

Vice Jr. (six catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns, with several of the receptions yielding first downs on crucial third down plays) and Bishop (26 carries for 201 yards and two scores) tormented the Jags all night.

Spain Park outgained the visitors 389 yards to 366 yards, and recorded 20 first down to 18 for Vestavia, but Coach Shawn Raney said his team made too many mistakes, including penalties, two turnovers and busted coverages.

“We have a small margin of error with this team,” Raney said. “If we play well, we can beat anybody, and if we don’t play well, we can lose to anybody.”

The loss snaps a four-game winning streak for the Jaguars over VHHS, which had not won at Jaguar Stadium since 2008.

Spain Park had not dropped its first region game of a season since 2011.

The hosts struck first when, on the first possession of the game, Richard Moses intercepted a Sawyer pass and returned it all the way for a touchdown.

Trevor Bernier was good on this point-after try and all the others, as was his counterpart Caleb Huber, who even connected on a 35-yard extra point after the game’s final touchdown following an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

The Rebels (2-0) tied the game early in the second quarter when Bishop gutted the Spain Park defense with a touchdown run from 44 yards out, and took the lead minutes later on a 26-yard pass from Sawyer to Vice Jr. on third-and-seven.

SPHS tied the game before halftime after the offense was sparked by Jalen Henderson’s running, including powering in from three yards out for a touchdown with less than a minute remaining in the first half.

Henderson gave the Jaguars the lead on a 57-yard run early in the third quarter, but Bishop tied the game at 21-all in the third quarter on a seven-yard run.

Henderson rushed 26 times for 151 yards in the game.

Pronk completed 14 passes in 19 attempts for 165 yards, and added 73 rushing yards on 12 attempts.

McDaniel caught three passes for 69 yards, Hines caught four passes for 48 yards and Henderson caught five passes for 35 yards.

DeQarius Hill and Kishawn Dawsey paced the Spain Park defense with five tackles each, while both Cedric Tooson and Matthew Moates had 4.5 tackles.