Briarwood has 10 athletes ink with colleges

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

NORTH SHELBY – Briarwood Christian School always has a strong class of signees when National Signing Day rolls around, and that was no different this year when the school hosted a signing day ceremony on Wednesday, Feb. 5.

In front of a packed auditorium, 10 different athletes from eight different sports were able to celebrate the achievement of getting to continue playing the sport they love at the collegiate level.

“We’re celebrating a really fun day today,” athletic director Jay Matthews said. “We are gathered to celebrate the opportunity these young men and women have to accept the Lord’s next assignment for them.”

During the ceremony, each of the 10 athletes was recognized by a coach and then got the opportunity to speak themselves before all of them signed their letters of intent to close out the ceremony.

The first athlete to be acknowledged was basketball star Chance Beard, who has played a big role for the Lions the last few years. Beard is headed to Spring Hill College looking to continue enjoying the game he loves.

“Chance has worked tirelessly to get where he is,” head basketball coach Bobby Kerley said. “I know Spring Hill College is getting an excellent student, a great player and a good man.”

Following Beard, Caroline Campbell was honored for her achievements I softball. A strong pitcher and big at the plate, Campbell is headed to Birmingham Southern College to continue her playing days.

“Your accomplishments as a softball player are special, but softball will come and go, but the impact you have on people, in particular this bunch, that’s what makes you special,” softball coach Chad Watts said. 

Head tennis coach Jeremy Mears then stepped to the podium and introduced Connor Coleman. A big part of last year’s team sweeping the state championship and helping create a dynasty at Briarwood, Coleman is headed to continue his tennis career at Washington and Lee.

“Connor, you certainly have left a positive footprint on our program,” Mears said. “For that I am grateful. I love you and I wish you nothing but the best.”

Following Coleman was Cheerleader Alyssa Davidson, who is headed to Belmont Abbey for tumbling. Davidson has been a crucial leader for Briarwood’s cheer team the last few years and one head coach Kara Byers is going to miss.

“Alyssa is a team player,” Byers said. “As a senior on our team, I would always notice her talking to the seniors and helping them. She always worked her hardest to help even if it wasn’t her job. She’s going to be an asset on the Belmont Abbey tumbling team and I can’t wait to see what she does.”

That led into football players Cole Garner and Trent Howard being recognized for their contributions the last few years. Garnter, a three-year starter, did just about everything for the Lions, including playing offensive guard, defensive end and defensive tackle.

“Cole’s play can be described by heart, hustle and physical style,” head coach Matthew Forester said. “It has been a blessing to watch Cole grow up these last six years. To see the football player he has become has been impressive and I’m proud of him for that, but more importantly to see the Christian man he has become.”

After Forester finished sharing his gratitude for Garner, a special guest stepped to the podium to talk about Howard—Fred Yancey, who retired before Howard’s senior season after 29 years at Briarwood.

“I’m coach Yancey and I used to coach here for a long time,” he said with a laugh before introducing Howard. “He’s a competitor, but he combines that competitiveness with a heart for the Lord. He’s truly a great example to his teammates and a blessing to his coaches.”

While Yancey and Forester have seen success with the football program, the fishing team at Briarwood has become dominant in recent years as well, and has sent several anglers onto the Univeristy of Montevallo.

That continued on Feb. 5, when Chandler Holt and Riley Underwood both signed to continue fishing for the Falcons after winning a state championship with Briarwood last year.

“We are so proud of them and love them so much,” head coach Curtis Gossett said. “I have to mention coach (Jay) Matthews because he coached them for longer than I did, however, I’ve known these young men for three years and I can’t tell you how proud I am of these guys.”

That led into another powerhouse program in soccer, as head coach and principal Shawn Brower announced Bailey Morman. A leader last year and for the upcoming season, Morman helped lead the Lions to a state championship in 2019 and is now headed to the University of Alabama Huntsville.

“In a sport like soccer filled with flashy cleats and big egos and sees a lot of individuality, Bailey is really a down to earth kind of guy,” head coach and principal Shawn Brower said. “But don’t let that calm level headedness fool you, he’s a strong competitor and we’re excited to see him play on the field this year for us and moving forward at UAH.”

The final athlete to sign was volleyball’s Audrey O’Brien, who is headed to Samford to continue playing a sport she has poured a lot into.

“She’s stood firm in her faith that volleyball doesn’t define her, but the plan that God wanted her to walk was going to be revealed,” former Briarwood assistant coach Luann Causey said. “She did anything and everything that was ever asked of her, and that’s the reason she’s up here today.”