Briarwood finishes area play undefeated to claim title

By SETH HAGAN | Special to the Reporter 

HOMEWOOD – The No. 1 Briarwood Lions took a rough, back-and-forth top-three affair and turned it into a runaway victory on the road late, as they took down the No. 3 John Carroll Cavaliers 5-1, on Tuesday, April 16.

The win gives Briarwood an undefeated area record and the Class 4A-5A Area 7 championship for 2019.

Despite the unexpected final margin of victory, Briarwood head coach Shawn Brower knows this match could’ve been much closer.

“It was two very good teams battling it out and I don’t think the score is necessarily indicative of the game,” Brower said. “I thought they came out with a lot of tenacity and our boys weathered the storm and didn’t get too rattled. We settled in and let the game come to us and didn’t get overanxious. Proud of the way the boys kept persevering even though we lost a couple of starters from last game and two more tonight.”

John Carroll (10-5-2) came out very aggressive in the first half and attempted two corner kicks in the first four minutes, but couldn’t cash in.

That proved to be fortuitous, as Briarwood got their first chance minutes later. In the seventh minute, senior Nick Badolato drove all the way down to John Carroll’s baseline and fired what was intended to be a cross into the goalie box, but the pass ricocheted off a Cavaliers’ defender and into the right corner of the net.

The Cavaliers hung their heads in disbelief, but tried their best to get back into it.

Jack Bapst found the net in the 17th minute with a good shot driving down the right side to get the crowd involved again, but another offensive lull allowed the Lions to regain momentum.

Five minutes later, Bailey Morman found the ball in a crowded box off a set piece and volleyed the ball with a no-look header over the entire John Carroll defense and into an empty net to regain the lead for the Lions at 2-1.

“Bailey is the engine to our team and a lot of times doesn’t get the credit he deserves,” Brower said. “He’s relentless, fearless, plays all 80 minutes and another game where he just threw the team on his back.”

Morman went on to score again in the 51st minute as Brower went to him on a penalty kick chance off a John Carroll foul just inside the box.

Lions’ goalie Sam Candler was big again for his team on the road where Briarwood, now 16-1-3 overall, will go undefeated away from home for the entire regular season.

Candler had his work cut out for him as the Cavs put four of their first six shots on goal, but he turned away three of them and six of seven overall.

“Sam is cool, calm and collected. Three great characteristics for a goalkeeper,” Brower said. “He reads the play well, he’s smart, he’s tenacious. He goes about his business, rock solid and doesn’t give up second chances.”

Several times down the stretch, with a 3-1 lead, Candler snagged John Carroll shots that could’ve put the Cavs back in the game, but time and again he silenced the home crowd.

It wasn’t until Logan Frost crossed a defender and tapped a goal past a charging goalie in the 71st minute that the game’s result was truly relieved of doubt. Senior Jackson Stubbs added another goal two minutes later for good measure.