Waugh’s dominant 2nd half lifts Briarwood to playoff win

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor 

NORTH SHELBY – Trailing 14-3 at the half, the Briarwood Lions had given up 14 unanswered points to Hartselle and had no momentum. But senior linebacker Tyler Waugh put the team on his back in the second half and willed the Lions back for a 31-17 home win in the opening round of the playoffs on Friday, Nov. 6.

In the second half alone, Waugh not only had two interceptions, including one to ice the game, but he added four rushing touchdowns and more than 100 yards on the ground.

“We always say seniors die hard and that was our mentality, we’re not dying tonight,” Waugh said after the game. “I like to compete and have fun. Winning is fun. I don’t like to lose. The ultimate goal was to win, so I just went out there and tried to put my team in the best position to win.”

And that’s exactly what happened, as he and the Lions came out roaring in the second half to outscore the Tigers 28-3 in a dominant comeback effort to advance to the second round and set up a matchup with Class 6A No. 1 Oxford. 

“We settled down and played football,” head coach Matthew Forester said after the win. “We knew if we could get stops and get our offense with the ball that they would commit. Every week, a group on offense shines and tonight, it was our heavy package.”

During the first drive by both teams, they looked like they were feeling the defense out, which led to quick punts

That changed on Briarwood’s second drive, however.

After a long screen pass from Christopher Vizzina to Luke Reebals set up first-and-goal from the 7-yard line, the Lions were in great shape. But after a bad snap and sack pushed them back to the 16-yard line, they had to settle for a 32-yard field goal from Jakob Brower, who booted it through the uprights for a 3-0 lead.

But on the ensuing Hartselle drive, the Tigers put together an 11-play drive that featured four third down conversions, including third-and-goal from the Lions’ 1-yard line for the go-ahead touchdown.

Now trailing 7-3, the Briarwood was hoping for an answer, but instead handed Hartselle a second touchdown. After gathering a first down, Vizzina and Reebals were running an option to the right side when Vizzina pitched the ball.

That’s when Hartselle linebacker Hudson Crow jumped the pitch, batted it in the air and hauled it in on the fly before sprinting to the end zone for another touchdown and 14 unanswered points.

Briarwood got into Hartselle territory three more times during the half, but penalties and a turnover on downs prevented any points as the Lions went into the half trailing 14-3.

But at the half, Waugh and the rest of the Lions came together to make sure this wasn’t their last game.

It started with Vizzina making plays in the passing game on the first drive of the half, before Waugh came in to polish off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown to make the score 14-10 Hartselle with 8:14 to play in the third quarter.

Hartselle answered with a 50-yard field goal on the ensuing drive, but that became the final points of the night for the Tigers.

Waugh reeled off a 31-yard run on the next drive and then ran three times in a row after that to eventually punch in a 2-yard scoring run to tie the game.

Then, to start the fourth quarter, he put Briarwood back in front with a 36-yard run, which set up a 7-yard touchdown run to make it 24-17 with 10:26 to play.

He then capped the game off with an interception and another touchdown run within two plays of one another to create the final score of 31-17.

Waugh ended the night with the four touchdown runs and two interceptions with a shade more than 100 yards rushing. Vizzina totaled 240 yards through the air, while Reebals had close to 200 all-purpose yards.