Defense stands tall in Briarwood’s 16-7 win at Wenonah

By GRAHAM BROOKS / Staff Writer

BIRMINGHAM – Points were few and far between when the Briarwood Lions traveled to Birmingham to take on the Wenonah Dragons, but in the end, the Lions executed in all three phases of the game to come away with a key 16-7 region win on Friday, Sept. 20.

Two defensive stands, one occurring before halftime and one at the end of the game, two big special teams plays and a successful run game were all crucial in Briarwood coming away with the win.

Early in the game, Briarwood would take advantage of a Wenonah special teams miscue when a bad snap on a punt rolled into the end zone as a horde of Lions’ tackled the punter to force a safety with 10:04 left in the first quarter.

After taking a quick 2-0 lead, both teams struggled to move the football until late in the first quarter, when Wenonah moved the ball to the Briarwood 10-yard line.

After a quarterback keeper up the middle for a five-yard gain, the Wenonah coaching staff were leaning toward going for it on fourth down at the Briarwood 5-yard line. However, a false start penalty pushed the Dragons back to the 10-yard line, forcing the field goal unit to trot on the field.

The decision would result in no points as the Briarwood defense got its second big special teams play in the first quarter, blocking the kick and recovering it to preserve the 2-0 lead.

“What we said before the game is we’ve got to have great special teams, we’ve got to tackle and we can’t turn the ball over,” Briarwood head coach Matthew Forester said. “So, we got our points and we trusted our defense and we said, ‘we’re going to take our big offensive line with Alex Miller, Clayton Rasmussen and they’re going to pound the ball and we’re going to let Luke Prewett just run behind them.'”

Following the blocked kick, Briarwood used a steady dose of Prewett as he ripped off multiple big runs and converted a fourth-and-6 on a catch to keep the drive alive.

Briarwood running back Christian Ferguson then set up the Lions with a first-and-goal at the two-yard line following a 19-yard run. The Lions would punch it in the end zone with 8:52 to go in the first half to push the lead to 9-0.

After forcing a three-and-out, Briarwood got the ball back and continued its success on the ground with Prewett and Ferguson.

After moving the ball to the Wenonah 20-yard line, Briarwood offensive coordinator Bobby Kerley decided to dial up a pass play at an opportune time, as wide receiver Blake McKenna got behind the defense following a play action fake for the 20-yard score to make it 16-0 Lions.

“They’re a cover two team so part of the idea that we knew we couldn’t run the ball was how their corners are hard and their safeties are out wide so we were in that strike zone area,” Forester said. “We gave the run action and hit him, so it was just offensive coordinator coach Kerley doing a great job calling plays and designing the offense.”

In the second half, the Briarwood defense continued to be relentless forcing punts, sacks, turnover on downs and a crucial interception by defensive back Chase Travis.

The Dragons only score of the game came with 50 seconds left in the third quarter on a 26-yard touchdown pass to make it 16-7.

Offensively, Briarwood committed a number of holding penalties in the second half that prevented the Lions from scoring in the final two quarters, but the nine-point lead would be more than enough in the end.

Faced with one last opportunity to cut into the Briarwood lead, The Lions’ defense made one final stand as a pass was thrown downfield and incomplete on fourth-and-long with 39 seconds left in the game.

Briarwood regained possession and knelt the ball a few times to take home the 16-7 win.

“The defense was great tonight and we’ve been banged up a lot on the defensive line so we’ve had some sophomores that’ve stepped up,” Forester said. “All of our seniors have been injured, in yet, they’re resilient enough to come out and battle. I’m really proud of the defensive line like Cole Garner and Turner Murphy with how those seniors are willing to play hurt and still give us maximum effort.”

With the win, Briarwood improved to 2-2 on the season and 2-1 in region play.

Up next, the Lions will face Hartselle at home in a non-region game on Friday, Sept. 27.