Through the line: Briarwood redeems losses, wins 2019 State Championship

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

HUNTSVILLE – With 13 players on this year’s team from two previous runner-up finishes in the last two years in the Class 4A-5A State Championship game, the Briarwood Lions had experienced the ultimate heartbreak.

Two years ago, it was a 3-2 loss to Randolph after holding a 2-1 lead in the final minutes, and a year ago, it was a 5-1 blowout loss again to Randolph.

“When you get here the first time, you’re like ‘Hey, we’re at state,’ but this year there was no celebration leading up to this until yesterday’s PK win,” Briarwood head coach Shawn Brower said. “It really was a single focus that we’re going to do everything we can to not be denied this time.”

And while the heartbreak could have been even more crucial with a third consecutive loss in the title game, those 13 players, as well as the rest showed that determination early and often to claim what had evaded them for two consecutive years.

From start-to-finish, the Lions did what Brower exclaimed after the game as running through the line. Briarwood came out and poured it on early with four goals in the first 22 minutes before eventually going on to take down Springville 5-0 to claim the 2019 State Championship to complete the redemption path.

The past two years, Briarwood ran to the line, which Brower said was just to get to the state championship, but this year, they got to the line and busted through.

“The way they came out, just on fire, I think said a lot to how well our mindset was coming into this game,” Brower said. “This is a moment we didn’t want to miss. The reality is, you don’t know that you’ll ever get another moment like this back and we didn’t want to waste it.”

Briarwood’s first goal of the championship matchup came 7:29 in when Logan Frost, the top-goal scorer on the team, fond an opening and rocketed it home for a 1-0 advantage.

It took very little time for the Lions to add to that lead thanks to the combination of Trent Malloy and Jackson Stubbs.

In a span of a minute, those two each scored goals to put Briarwood up 3-0 with 25:03 left in the half. Malloy’s goal came off a rebound, and for a second, nobody was sure what had happened, until the official awarded him the goal.

With Springville possibly still a little shell-shocked, the Lions got another opportunity shortly after when Jackson Stubbs got into the box and hit a rising ball that sailed right over the keeper’s hands to add a third goal.

After a seven-minute lull in the scoring, Briarwood got another opportunity on a free kick a few yards to the right of the box.

Stubbs lined up the shot, played curving roller toward the box, and what was ruled an own goal, actually hit the foot of Bailey Morman to send the ball into the net for a 4-0 Briarwood lead with 18:45 left in the half.

That ended up being the halftime score, but at that point the damage was already done.

With that cushion, Briarwood came out in the second half determined to not even let Springville come close to sniffing a goal.

The defense that posted 16 shutouts this season and set the state record for consecutive shutouts at 10, closed the season the way any championship team would.

The Lions didn’t allow any great opportunities for the majority of the game, but especially in the second half.

Then, with 6:32 remaining, senior forward Hamilton Bowen got one final goal to put the cherry on top of an already delicious victory for the Lions.

While the bounce back from the two championship losses may have seemed easy, the team and Brower knew they weren’t guaranteed to be here with this opportunity.

“One of the players shared with the guys that after the first loss two years ago, he had no idea it would hurt that much,” Brower said. “So it’s been hard to go that hard knowing it could hurt that much in the end. He kind of admitted that to us all the other day, and that’s been the biggest challenge of overcoming those difficult losses.”

But, they did it.

As Brower said, “It wasn’t enough to just get here, we wanted to seize this opportunity and redeem ourselves.”

Goal accomplished.

Photos available Shelbycountyphotos.com.