Briarwood offense struggles in region loss to Mountain Brook

By GRAHAM BROOKS | Special to the Reporter

NORTH SHELBY – In a rare game played under Thursday night lights because of impending bad weather this weekend, the Mountain Brook Spartans and Briarwood Lions clashed in a big Class 6A Region 5 game where the Spartans made more plays in big spots to come away with a tough 17-7 road win on Thursday, Oct. 8.

Despite battling tough defensively, Briarwood’s offense was unable to get on the scoreboard until 4:53 remaining in the third quarter and couldn’t get into the end zone a second time as the Lions fell to the now 6-1 Spartans.

“The defense did a good job,” Briarwood head coach Matthew Forester said. “They battled, they were physical and fought. I thought we stood toe-to-toe with them and they made a few plays and two big plays kind of hurt us.”

Mountain Brook finished with 370 yards of total offense as quarterback Strother Gibbs finished 10-of-14 for 107 yards through the air and rushed 25 times for 132 yards and a touchdown to lead the Spartans.

The Spartans’ first touchdown came on a 37-yard run by Paulson Wright to make it 7-0 with 7:07 left in the first quarter.

On their next drive, Briarwood was able to force a turnover on downs to gain back some momentum, but the Lions’ offense couldn’t produce any points in the first half.

Briarwood successfully moved the ball several drives against the Spartans; however, two of those drives ended in interceptions, one drive ended on a missed field goal and other drives consisted of costly penalties.

Mountain Brook’s second score came with just three seconds left in the first half as Reed Harradine knocked home a 36-yard field goal to give the Spartans a 10-0 halftime lead.

After the half, Briarwood’s explosive play for a touchdown came when Briarwood quarterback Christopher Vizzina threw a swing pass to the near sideline that Luke Reebals caught and sprinted 47 yards to the end zone to cut the deficit to 10-7.

Reebals led the Lions’ offense with 11 carries for 98 yards and five receptions for 78 yards and the touchdown.

The final touchdown that eventually decided the game was on the ensuing drive as Gibbs threw a 52-yard pass that set up his 2-yard touchdown run. Gibbs punched it in the end zone with one minute left in the third quarter to make the score 17-7.

In the final quarter, Vizzina was intercepted early in the fourth quarter and Mountain Brook played keep away to milk the clock and get the win to remain unbeaten in region play.

“They just converted on a few things and we couldn’t get off the field early enough to give our offense some momentum, but we will go back, look at it and continue to improve,” Forester said.

With the loss, Briarwood is still poised to finish the season strong and make a run in the playoffs as Forester pointed out.

“We still got the playoffs to look forward to and we don’t talk about this as the end-all be-all game,” Forester said.