Offense propels Spain Park to opening-night win

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor 

TUSCALOOSA – A combined 1,221 yards between Spain Park and Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa on Friday, Aug. 23, led to some opening-night fireworks in an offensive shootout, but it was the Jaguars who had a slight edge and made the late plays to pick up a 42-33 victory.

Leading by double-digit points on three different occasions, the Jags seemingly had the game in control, but Hillcrest battled back to tie the game at one point before climbing to within two points with 3:43 to play.

The Jags went on to recover an onside kick, and then got a 26-yard touchdown run from Michael Callens with 2:18 left to close out the opening-night victory.

Callens was one of several offensive players to have a special night for Spain Park thanks to 129 rushing yards and that one touchdown on 19 carries. The talented running back also added 78 receiving yards and one additional touchdown on nine receptions.

While Callens had a great night, senior quarterback Harrison Barker matched it with 488 passing yards on completing 28 of 38 passes with four passing touchdowns.

Barker got the scoring started when he found Cooper Kelley for a 24-yard touchdown pass with seven minutes left in the opening quarter.

While the game slowed down for the next 12 minutes of game time, it took off the rest of the night.

With 5:22 remaining in the second quarter, Barker and Kelley connected again, this time for a 25-yard touchdown strike to put the Jaguars on top 14-0.

Hillcrest needed a big answer and it came with two big plays, a 33-yard touchdown pass and a 71-yard touchdown run, which quickly tied the game at 14-14 with 1:23 to play in the half.

But Barker was feeling it early, and there was still plenty of time for him to take the Jaguars down the field, which is exactly what he did.

Spain Park marched right down the field, and on the final play of the half, Barker found Callens for an 11-yard touchdown pass to give the Jags a 21-14 advantage at the break.

To that point, Barker had 260-plus yards and three touchdowns passing in the first half, and he wasn’t ready to slow down.

Right out of the gates in the second half, Barker hit Jacob Jenkins for a 75-yard touchdown strike that put the Jags back up by 14 points at 28-14 with 11:24 to play in the third quarter.

The Patriots, however, responded with a quick 37-yard touchdown pass three minutes later to get back within a score.

After a quiet rest of the third quarter, the Jaguars were able to cap off a nice long drive with a 2-yard touchdown run from Austin Hutcheson 55 seconds into the final quarter to extend the advantage to 35-20.

Hillcrest answered with two touchdowns over the next eight minutes to get within two points at 35-33.

The failed onside kick attempt, however, kept the comeback from happening, as Callens took advantage of the short field with his 26-yard touchdown run to close out the victory.

Barker found six different receivers in the game, and his favorite target was Jenkins, who posted 167 receiving yards and one touchdown. David Moultry added 98 yards, while Kelley posted 79 yards and two touchdowns.

Richard Moses led the defense with eight tackles and one sack, while Chris Mancill added six tackles, three tackles for loss and one sack.

Spain Park will now get set to host Bessemer City on Friday, Aug. 20, in a rematch of a game the Jaguars lost 16-14 in heartbreaking fashion last year.