Briarwood, Spain Park compete in OTA

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

HOOVER – For the second consecutive season, the Briarwood Lions and Spain Park Jaguars competed in a friendly OTA with their entire teams at Spain Park High School on Wednesday, July 24.

Last year, the two teams competed at Briarwood Christian School looking to get in some valuable work with a month to go before the season, and this year the goal was the same for the two schools separated by less than 5 miles.

Being an OTA event, the two teams got to use their entire teams in different drills instead of just competing in a 7-on-7 that only allows a few skill players to get work.

Having their full teams able to compete in 11-on-11 drills or specific unit drills for the linemen and others allows each team to work on specific concerns heading into the season.

“We’ve had a good summer so far,” head coach Shawn Raney said prior to the event. “We’re athletic, but we’re so young. Competing this summer and in camp, we’re getting a chance to get better. I love getting to see our bad stuff just to see how we respond, because we have to be able to respond better this season when some of that bad stuff happens.”

The Jaguars are coming off a 4-6 season, but early in the season, it was the struggle to respond to a bad play or game that really seemed to kill them.

A two-point loss to Bessemer City, followed by two consecutive region losses to Vestavia Hills and Mountain Brook by 10 points or less really put the Jags in a tough spot searching for confidence of any kind.

The problem with that was the gauntlet of Hewitt-Trussville, Thompson and Hoover in the next three games, which all became part of a six-game losing streak.

That said, the Jags finally responded in their final three games of the season with a 21-0 win against Oak Mountain, a 42-21 win against Tuscaloosa County and a 42-10 win against Shades Valley.

During summer workouts and going into fall camp at the beginning of August, the focus has been and will be on responding, especially early in the season. A 1-3 start would put them in the same situation, but if they’re able to bounce back from an early loss this season or start out 4-0 because they’ve bounced back from a bad play to respond with a big play to pick up wins, then this team will have proven they have turned the page.

For Briarwood, the OTA gives the Lions the chance to get reps with their entire team under a new head coach for the first time in 30 years.

The Lions look to be in good shape heading into the 2019 season, but new head coach and former defensive coordinator Matthew Forester said the reps are key for his team’s success whether it’s an OTA or a 7-on-7.

“It signifies that we are close to the season and that’s exciting. We know we’ve still got stuff to work on and can get better in our coverages, and we’re installing new stuff offensively, so we can experiment and see what we like and how it fits together,” Forester said of the events earlier in the summer.

Heading into the season, both teams are in somewhat different situations with the Lions looking to continue a winning tradition and redeem last year’s early playoff exit, while the Jaguars are looking to get back to the team that can make a deep run in the playoffs coming off a losing year last year and a first-round playoff exit two years ago.