Briarwood takes down unbeaten Bibb County in defensive showdown to advance to semifinals

By GRAHAM BROOKS / Staff Writer

BIRMINGHAM – For the second time since 2017, the Briarwood Lions are heading to the semifinals of the Class 5A state playoffs after knocking off previously unbeaten Bibb County 7-3 by using a stellar defensive performance on Friday, Nov. 22, at Lions Pride Stadium.

Although the game lacked offensive firepower, Briarwood had just enough offense as a first quarter touchdown was all the Lions needed to take home the win.

First-year Briarwood head coach Matthew Forester said he knew the game would be a defensive struggle and a game of field position and his team was up to the challenge.

“Tonight, we knew points would be scarce and we knew we would need to play tough, physical football,” Forester said. “We challenged our guys and I’m proud of our seniors on defense with guys like Cole Garner, Turner Murphy and Crawford Kent. Cal Reebals also made a big play demonstrating hustle and heart on a play where they showed a new formation. He tracked down the play and didn’t let them score. I think it was a turning point in the game when they had the momentum.”

On the flip side, Bibb County’s defense came into the game giving up just 10.3 points per game and had given up no more than 21 points in a game this season.

While Briarwood did not score more than 10, it was still enough for the win thanks to a big first quarter touchdown.

The only touchdown in the game for either team came as Briarwood quarterback Christopher Vizzina hit wide receiver Blake McKenna for a long touchdown pass that went 65-yards to give the Lions a 7-0 lead near the end of the opening quarter.

“Blake did a great job of getting the deep ball,” Forester said. “Blake is a fast kid and got an opening and our offensive line did a great job blocking. They were aggressive and we took a shot.”

In the second half, the Lions defense was able to prevent Bibb County from tying the game with a late goal line stop in the third quarter and several stops in the final quarter.

The Choctaws only points in the game came with a field goal with 10:29 left in the game to make it 7-3 but that’s as close as they would get.

After starting the season 0-2, Forester said one of his favorite things has been to see the growth of his team this year as they will now prepare for the semifinals.

“It’s been fun and it’s one of the things I love about football is you face adversity,” Forester said. “We started 0-2 and guys rallied around each other and believed. They sacrificed and followed the coaches lead and buckled down. Just to see how far we’ve come in 11 weeks and how they’ve responded each week has been special, and I’m proud to be their coach.”

Briarwood will now host Pleasant Grove in the semifinal round of the playoffs on Friday, Nov. 29, with a spot in the state championship game on the line. Pleasant Grove defeated Briarwood earlier in the season 26-14.