Spain Park ends season with emotional 3rd straight win
Published 4:50 pm Friday, November 2, 2018
By SETH HAGAN | For the Reporter
IRONDALE – The Spain Park Jaguars went through the fire of Class 7A’s Region 3 and while they didn’t emerge unscathed in 2018, they did come through it sharper, and better for it.
The Jags found their way out of the woods of a six-game losing streak and took a three-game winning streak into the offseason and will no doubt be a force to be reckoned with in 2019.
The Shades Valley Mounties found out the hard way as Spain Park rolled the home team 42-10 on the final night of the season for both teams.
Spain Park head coach Shawn Raney was visibly emotional after addressing his team after the win, but detailed the season afterwards including the rigors of Region 3.
“It’s every week, our margin of error is very small right now,” he said. “We can beat anybody or you can lose to anybody, so to keep a team motivated for 10 weeks with a team like that is very hard with 17, 18-year-old kids. But that teaches our young kids, I think, what we went through, that hey man if you don’t come to work on Monday it doesn’t matter who we’re playing, there’s a six-game losing streak out there waiting on us. So that’s what we’ll carry into the offseason and if that doesn’t motivate you to work, I don’t know what will.”
The Jaguars will almost certainly find that motivation in the way they finished the season, both on offense and defense.
The defense has been Spain Park’s stalwart while the offense found its rhythm during the win streak and both were on display against the Mounties on Nov. 1. The defense showed out in a tough spot to get things started in the first quarter.
Spain Park fumbled the short squib kickoff at their own 36 which was promptly recovered by the Mounties. Shades Valley drove the ball down inside the 10, but the Jaguars’ defense stiffened, forced a couple of incompletions and forced the Mounties into a short field goal to put them up 3-0.
It was the last time Shades Valley led all night.
Spain Park’s offense struggled at first, punting on its first two drives, but the defense was ready to save the day.
As the Mounties drove into Jaguar territory again, athlete Kenyon Hines made a sprawling catch extending himself sideways for the interception.
Spain Park didn’t make it far on its ensuing drive and had to punt again, but the defense was about to take the game into their own hands.
Shades Valley again forged its way into Spain Park territory, but as the field grew shorter so did the space between the Mounties’ receivers and the Jaguar defenders.
Isaac Sims tried to find one of his guys on a comeback route, but Demillion Simms read the play beautifully, stepped in front of a waiting Shades Valley receiver, snatched the ball and raced up the sideline making one cut to the middle of the field before going untouched into the end zone for the 7-3 lead.
Raney beamed with pride when talking about how his defense weathered the storm this season.
“I thought they’ve played good enough to win every game we’ve gone to,” he said. “The offense has struggled, but they’ve gotten better the last four or five weeks. Now, the offense is clicking, but the season’s done so that’s kind of disappointing.”
The pick-6 galvanized the entire sideline, as the Jaguar defense stopped Shades Valley again to hand the ball back to their offense.
Mason Pronk and Jalen Henderson took the reins from there.
After a poor punt gave the Jags a short field, Spain Park gave the Mounties a steady dose of Henderson as they drove inside the red zone. Pronk rolled out to the left, but, finding no receiver, tucked the ball and ran as the field opened up, before diving toward the pylon for an exhilarating score to putg the Jags up 14-3.
Shades Valley put together one last gasp effort and drove 80 yards in just over two minutes as Antonio Williams plunged in from the 1-yard line to draw the Mounties within four, 14-10.
The Jags didn’t waste any time taking back their double-digit lead as tight end Jacob Jenkins got behind the Mounties’ defense and caught a towering pass from Pronk that led him straight on a path to the end zone on the first play from scrimmage.
It didn’t take Spain Park long to one up that 65-yard score. After the defense forced another three-and-out, Pronk again found another receiver streaming down the field.
This time Cooper Kelly weaved his way behind the defense on the first play of the drive and broke the game open with the first of his two touchdown catches on the night for 74 yards.
The 28-10 lead only grew from there. Another defensive stop and a poor punt from Shades Valley again placed the Jags in fantastic field position—this time at Shades Valley’s own 31. Three Mounties’ punts traveled less than 20 yards on the night.
Spain Park’s trend of quick touchdowns continued as Pronk found Henderson for a 29-yard toss back touchdown with 1:42 to go in the second quarter to give the game its halftime score of 35-10.
Spain Park needed less than a minute of actual game clock to score their last three touchdowns of the half. The Jags added one more touchdown on Pronk’s second connection with Kelly from 2 yards out in the third quarter.
Kelly ended the night with 76 yards on two receptions, both for touchdowns.
Henderson, a senior, ended his final game with another 100 yards of total offense and a touchdown, but passed a major milestone with over 1,000 yards rushing on the season to end his career.
Pronk finished an efficient 9-of-13 passing for 191 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 21 yards and a score.
“There’s a lot of teams and kids that would quit, but these kids never did. You can see on their face how sad they are for this to end,” Raney said, holding back tears. “Just a group of seniors that have fought through some real adverse times and held this team together, and I’ve never been more proud of a team.”
Photos available here.