Spain Park scores 21-unanswered in 7-point win against Briarwood

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

HOOVER – After totaling just one first down in the first half of their home opener on Friday, Aug. 28, the Spain Park Jaguars came out in the second half and scored 21-unanswered points against Briarwood to pull off a 21-14 victory.

The Jags (2-0) were bottled up offensively in the first half, while Briarwood controlled the tempo of the game. But the Jags got two touchdowns from Justin Pegues in the second half and one from Cooper Kelley to pull off the comeback victory.

“You’re worried about how your kids handle adversity because we’ve had none with this team and we had it in the first half,” Raney said. “Briarwood hit us in the mouth. But to see our kids come out the way they did, I’m just very proud of them. At this level, it’s so hard to win a game, so you win one and you’re very happy.”

After falling behind 14-0, the Jags came out in the second half and showed early it was going to be a different story.

On the opening drive of the half, Spain Park hit a trick play on a double pass that ended with a touchdown, but a holding called it back. After a catch from Jaylen Ward ended in a fumble on the ensuing play, it looked as if the Jags were headed down the wrong path again, but they saw some positive plays for the first time all night.

The defense stepped up and forced a quick three-and-out to give the offense another try.

This time, the Jaguars started their stretch of three straight drives with touchdowns. They went on a 13-play drive with five third down conversions, before Pegues snuck in his first touchdown run of the half from a yard out. After the PAT was blocked, the Jags trailed 14-6.

On the ensuing drive, however, Spain Park’s defense continued what would become an impressive shutout in the second half when Gage Hughes forced a fumble that gave the Jags the ball back with good field position.

They capitalized early in the fourth quarter after quarterback Bennett Meredith hit Kelley for a 5-yard touchdown pass and then hit Ward for the 2-point conversion to even the game at 14-14 with 8:46 to play.

The Spain Park defense forced another quick punt on Briarwood’s next drive, which put a hot Jaguars’ offense right back on the field.

A drive that started with 6:30 left went 12 plays and saw three more third down conversions, including one to win the game. On third-and-3 from the BCS 7-yard line, Pegues grabbed a pitch from Meredith and sped around the left side of the line where he had blockers.

The running back broke a tackle and dove between two other tacklers into the end zone for the 21-14 lead with 1:27 to play.

“We had a great play call and I just wanted to get in the end zone,” Pegues said. “Coach said get the first down, but I know I could get in the end zone so that’s what I did.”

Briarwood got inside Spain Park territory on the ensuing drive, but with 20 seconds left, the Jags forced an incomplete pass on fourth down to preserve the comeback victory.

“It’s all about energy and how you prepare and play the game,” Raney said. “Our kids came out and executed in the second half. There were no different plays. It was basically just getting the kids to execute what you’ve worked on all week.”

It was a tale of two halves, however, as Briarwood jumped all over Spain Park in the first half with the more physical effort.

Starting with the ball at their own 20, the Lions’ opening drive featured a powerful 13 plays that ate six minutes off the clock. Briarwood got rid of the ball quick, ran strong, found pockets in the zone defense and converted third downs to put the pressure on Spain Park’s defense early.

Then, on first-and-10 from the 11-yard line, linebacker Parker Hutson toted the ball the same number of yards as his jersey number out of the wildcat to help the Lions finish off the opening-drive touchdown for a 7-0 lead.

With the Spain Park offense struggling, Briarwood got the the ball back with 2:14, the Lions faced fourth-and-1 from the Spain Park 36. Again, Briarwood put a linebacker at quarterback to run the wildcat and power their way to a first down.

Instead, running at left end, Tyler Waugh busted through the line, sprinted past the defense, made a spin move on the last defender and sprinted into the end zone for a 36-yard touchdown run. That put the Lions on top 14-0 heading into the halftime break.

But that’s when the Jags found a different gear and realized the effort that was needed.

“We underestimated them and they came out and hit us in the mouth,” Pegues said. “They came out and put it to us and at the half, we said ‘Not at home.’”

Pegues led the Jags with 91 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries, while Meredith finished 22-for-31 with 185 yards and a touchdown. Ward had 69 yards receiving, while Moultry and Kelley each had 49.

Jayst Dorion and Samuel Garibay led the defense with 11 combined tackles.

Briarwood was led by quarterback Christopher Vizzina with 176 passing yards, while Brooks Donnelly had 73 yards receiving.

Linebackers Tyler Waugh and Parker Hutson had two more big games for the Lions’ defense, including one touchdown each.