Briarwood advances to 2nd round, will face No. 2 Vigor

Published 12:06 am Saturday, November 10, 2018

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

NORTH SHELBY –Briarwood was able to punch its ticket to the second round of the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year with a 42-28 victory against Valley High School on Friday, Nov. 9, thanks to another strong performance from running backs J.R. Tran-Reno and Luke Prewett, as well as the defense and even some help on special teams.

“They kind of sparked the whole night for us,” head coach Fred Yancey said after the win of his two tailbacks. “Luke was having a great night until he got hurt, and then J.R. of course did wonderful things all night long.”

It was a game of up and downs, as the Lions looked to be en route to a blowout victory after taking a 28-0 lead midway through the second quarter, but the game got wild after that.

Valley went on to score 14 unanswered points to make it a two-score game early in the third quarter, but then Tran-Reno answered with a 92-yard to kill that momentum swing quickly and put the Lions back on top by three touchdowns.

Shortly after Briarwood got the ball back off a third blocked kick in the game and went to score shortly after on another touchdown plunge from Tran-Reno to put the Lions up 42-14 heading to the final quarter.

Valley, however, pulled off 14 more unanswered points in the fourth quarter and had a chance to make it 21 unanswered after recovering a second onside kick in as many attempts, but the Lions’ defense got back to its early dominant ways and was able to preserve the 42-28 win.

“When you hit the playoffs, we have to step up and play great football, but tonight we sputtered around some,” Yancey said. “We did some real nice things and were real aggressive on defense.”

After going three-and-out on the first drive of the game, a flip seemed to switch for Briarwood, and it looked as if the Lions were ready to pull off a dominant first-round victory.

Briarwood scored its first touchdown with 5:56 left in the opening quarter thanks to a 49-yard run from Prewett just one play after Matthew McKenna blocked a field goal, the first of his three blocked kicks on the night. One play after Prewett’s long run, Tran-Reno punched in the first of his four touchdowns from 2 yards out.

On Valley’s ensuing drive, McKenna was able to bust around the outside on a punt attempt and block his second kick of the night. This time, Cade Dickinson picked it up and returned it all the way to the end zone for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

The defense stepped up on the next drive and forced a three-and-out, which gave the offense a chance to add to the lead.

This time around, Tran-Reno was able to haul in a 42-yard pass deep down the sideline to set up first-and-goal from the 4-yard line. He then finished the drive off with his second touchdown of the game two plays later on a 1-yard run, which put the Lions on top 21-0 with 33 seconds left in the first quarter.

Briarwood extended that lead on its first drive of the second quarter thanks to some unbelievable running by Prewett.

He had 69 yards on the drive alone, including a 45-yard touchdown run that saw him stuffed for a gain of just a few yards with two tacklers bringing him to the ground, but Prewett spun around on his way to the ground and avoided his knee touching down by just a few inches before getting to his feet and sprinting to the end zone for a 28-0 Briarwood lead.

Valley went on to take advantage of a Jonah Carroll interception late in the quarter by throwing a 39-yard touchdown pass one play later to put the Rams’ first points on the board and make the halftime score 28-7.

The big play of the game came on the first drive of the second half for Briarwood, when Prewett took a run around the outside. On the tackle, his right ankle was bent awkwardly when landed on by the defender.

Prewett was helped off the field, before eventually being carted off the sideline to go get an X-Ray on the ankle, which was either sprained or broken.

It was an emotional scene for the junior running back, who had racked up 140 yards and a touchdown in the first half, as his teammates surrounded him with well wishes and prayers before he left the field.

That stalled the Lions’ opening drive of the half, and Valley went on to take advantage with an eventual fourth-and-goal touchdown run from the half-yard line.

That’s when Tran-Reno went on to answer with his 92-yard kick return to bring life back to the Lions.

Briarwood didn’t touch the ball the entire fourth quarter as the Rams attempted their comeback, but in the end, the deficit was too much for the visitors, which led the Lions on to the second round of the playoffs.

Prewett led the Lions on the ground with his 140 yards, while Tran-Reno had four touchdowns with 48 yards rushing and 55 yards receiving.

The Lions will now travel to take on No. 2 Vigor in the second round of the playoffs, a matchup Yancey knows will be a tough test for his team

“Vigor has a very good team,” Yancey said. “We are going to have to look at everything and see how we can improve in all phases. We’re going to have to get great improvement for next week.”

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