Top 10 most memorable games from the 2019-20 sports season
By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor
The 2019-2020 high school sports season was an unforgettable one for many reasons. From state championships, to buzzer beaters, to the spring season ending two months early, we saw it all, and we’re still reeling from the excitement and sorrow.
That’s the beauty of sports. It brings happiness, excitement, pain and tears, but more than anything, it gives us memories and lessons we’ll never forget.
In light of everything going on, and with no sports being played until at least the fall, we’re taking a trip down memory lane to look at the top 10 games from the 2019-2020 sports season in Shelby County.
No. 10 Briarwood beats No. 2 Ramsay on blocked field goal
It didn’t matter that they were without star running back Luke Prewett. It didn’t matter that they had a freshman quarterback starting. And it didn’t matter that they trailed 20-7 at the half. Briarwood still, somehow, found a way to upset No. 2 Ramsay 21-20 on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. It wasn’t easy, but the Lions fought back in the second half with a short touchdown pass to Tyler Waugh early in the fourth quarter and then a 40-yard touchdown pass from Christopher Vizzina to Eli Steadman later in the game. But the play of the game came when Parker Hutson blocked a short 20-yard field goal as time expired to preserve the one-point win. That played a factor in Briarwood gaining home field advantage in the postseason and making a run to the semifinals in head coach Matthew Forester’s first year.
No. 9 Spain Park downs Hewitt-Trussville on Barker’s pass to ward
After a 1-3 start to the season with two of those losses by seven points, Spain Park was in a tough spot heading into its matchup with Hewitt-Trussville on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. The Jaguars, however, were determined to not lose a fourth game in a row. In a back-and-forth matchup, Harrison Barker led his team down the field with several big plays in the final minute, including one fourth-down conversion, the Jags moved inside the Hewitt 20-yard line. Then, with 14 seconds left, Barker lofted a pass to the back of the end zone to Jaylen Ward, who toe-tapped for a 17-yard game-winning touchdown. Spain Park won by the final score of 28-24.
No. 8 Pelham basketball makes incredible postseason run
Going into the area tournament with a 1-5 record in area play, the Pelham Panthers had lost nine of their last 12 games. But in the first round of the area tournament, the Panthers took down regular-season area champion Helena on a buzzer beater from Kendan Maddox off a great assist from Blake Floyd for a 35-34 win to keep their season alive. Then, six days later, Pelham hit the road and took down Russell County 39-38 with two free throws from Roy Gonzalez with 0.3 seconds left. That sent Pelham to its fourth Sweet 16 in school history.
No. 7 Laatsch picks up 400th career win on last-second shot
In the final minute of a 65-65 game with area foe Hewitt-Trussville, the ball was in the hands of Spain Park playmaker Cam Crawford. He preceded to drive down the middle of the lane, spin into the body of a defender and jump up to release a highly contested floater. As the ball floated toward the basket, head coach Chris Laatsch gave a slight lean to try and will the ball in the basket. Almost simultaneously, the ball hit the front of the rim and rolled in to give Spain Park a 69-67 lead with 1.5 seconds to play. That became the game-winning shot in Laatsch’s 400th career win, as he went on to lead the Jaguars to the Elite Eight in his second year with the team.
No. 6 Thompson comes back to beat Hoover
After falling behind17-0 early in the first region contest of the 2019 football season, Thompson wasn’t ready to give up despite a first-year starting quarterback and a young defense. After falling behind 30-21, that defense, which was loaded with talent, stepped up and held Hoover scoreless the rest of the way, while Sawyer Pate got comfortable leading an offense that scored 27 unanswered points in a 48-30 win. That victory set the stage for Thompson’s state championship run.
No. 5 Shelby County advances to first Final Four
A strong group of senior starters set the pace for a historic 2019-20 season for the Shelby County girls basketball team. And on Thursday, Feb. 20, the Wildcats were able to overcome a 16-3 deficit in the first quarter to take down Central-Tuscaloosa 63-52 for a spot in their first Final Four in school history. It came two years after the Wildcats lost to the Falcons in that same position.
No. 4 Oak Mountain advances to first to Final Four
There was something different about Oak Mountain’s postseason run in basketball this season, and it largely had to do with the amount of joy they played with as well as the tremendous crowd support they had, which was larger than most this season. On Tuesday, Feb. 18, the Eagles were able to pull away late in a tight game with Sparkman for a 60-51 victory that sent them to their first ever Final Four. It was one of the most raucous environments you’ll see at a high school sporting event, and one of the most memorable moments over the last several years in Shelby County.
No. 3 Spain Park girls state championship
For the third time in the last four years, the Spain Park girls basketball team found themselves in the state championship game and for the second time, they had to take on crosstown rival Hoover. The last time the two met in the title, the Bucs won during Sarah Ashlee Barker’s freshman season. Three years later, after winning the title during her sophomore season, the senior led the Jags on a redemption path back to the championship game and had her team in great shape to win the matchup. But with 2:03 to play, Barker fouled out. The Jags, already down another starter in Camille Chase, had seen a 16-point lead trimmed down to two points with less than 30 seconds to play. Avery Masdon, however, stepped up to sink a clutch free throw, and the Jags held on for a thrilling three-point win to claim the Class 7A championship.
No. 2 Helena beats Chelsea for first place
With two second-year head coaches tied for first atop the region and their teams at 4-1, this matchup between Helena and Chelsea on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019 was for first place in the region at the time, and it lived up to the hype. In a 28-28 game with less than a minute to play, Helena drove down the field to get within field goal range for Logan Maloney. Despite missing one earlier in the game, Maloney stepped up with 34 seconds left and drilled the 30-yard field goal to put Helena in front 31-28. Chelsea made one final push on a 42-yard pass to Ladarius Gary, that would have set up a reasonable field-goal attempt, but a holding penalty on the next play pushed the Hornets back to the 42-yard line. The Hornets attempted a 47-yard field goal, but it was wide left, which led to the Huskies hanging on for the win. Helena went on to finish the regular season 9-1 and claimed its first region title in school history.
No. 1 Thompson wins 2nd state championship in school history
Coming into the 2019 football season, the Thompson Warriors had talent, but the majority of it unproven. The Warriors lost most of their offensive line, one of the best quarterbacks in state history and a defense that was full of talent, but young talent with unknown depth. The Warriors were one game form a perfect regular season at 9-1, losing their last game, but then put together a dominant postseason that led to a rematch in the state championship game against Central-Phenix City. After losing 52-7 the year before, Thompson stepped on the field this time around and took out a lot of frustration. The Warriors jumped out to a 20-0 lead and never looked back en route to a 40-14 victory that saw Pate account for four touchdowns and the defense dominate the entire game. With it being their second championship in school history, with the only other in 1982, the celebration, environment and moment were special and it created one of the most memorable moments in the county’s history.