Briarwood pulls off chaotic comeback to down rival Chelsea in OT

By GRAHAM BROOKS | Special to the Reporter

NORTH SHELBY – Trailing by two touchdowns with less than seven minutes to play in regulation, Briarwood found a way to rally with three unanswered touchdowns against rival Chelsea to cap a wild 42-35 to open region play on Friday, Sept. 3.

After leading the entire game, Chelsea had one final chance to send the game to a second overtime, but on fourth-and-goal from the 15-yard line, Chelsea quarterback Hayden garrison’s pass to the end zone was broken up by Grey Reebals, as the Briarwood players and coaches rushed the field to celebrate a wild comeback.

Earlier in the game, Chelsea’s offense was clicking on all cylinders in the first half, as the Hornets scored touchdowns on their first four offensive possessions to claim a comfortable 28-14 halftime lead.

Defensively for Briarwood, poor tackling and fundamentals proved to be a major issue in the first half. Lions’ head coach Matthew Forester said the coaches addressed that most coming out in the second half.

“They came out in the first half and had a great scheme and we didn’t tackle very well and didn’t cover very well, so we really gave them live, but they fought hard,” Forester said. “We knew against Chelsea, they have a proud history, and we knew they’d play really tough, physical football. The fact we came out and had a second chance in the second half was encouraging. We challenged them to play great, and they really did. They stepped up.”

After Briarwood quarterback Christopher Vizzina scored a 3-yard touchdown to open the game, Chelsea responded and didn’t relinquish the lead again until overtime.

The Hornets scored touchdowns of 29 yards, 57 yards, 23 yards and 10 yards in the first half, as Garrison threw three touchdowns in the opening half, as the hornets hummed along offensively.

Trailing by 14, Briarwood needed some offense in the second half, and after taking advantage of good field position, running back Luke Reebals punched it in from 1 yard out to cut Chelsea’s lead to 28-21 midway through the third quarter.

Quick scores and getting stops on defense is what the Lions needed as Forester said Briarwood can be a great team if they play to their capabilities.

“We said that we were going to tackle in the second half and made some big plays, but really, if we play sound fundamental football, we can do good stuff,” he said.

Despite cutting into the lead, Chelsea was not finished. The Hornets responded to Briarwood cutting the game to seven with a touchdown of their own. They put together a strong drive capped off by a 2-yard touchdown run from Garrison to make it 35-21 with 1:26 left in the third.

Trailing by 14 entering the final quarter, the Lions didn’t panic.

Instead, they went to work.

With 5:42 to play in the game, and the Lions running out of time, Christopher Vizzina scrambled for a 10-yard touchdown run that brought Briarwood back within seven points.

After a big stop defensively, the Lions got the ball back two minutes later and went back to work.

Vizzina quickly reeled off a long run down the sideline before being talked just short of the goal line at the 2-yard line.

After a false start, however, they eventually faced third-and-goal from the 7, which quickly became fourth-and-goal from the 5-yard line with 38 seconds left.

Another penalty pushed it back to be fourth-and-goal from the 10-yard line, but the Lions looked as calm as possible in the biggest moment of the season thus far.

On the ensuing play, Vizzina took the snap and hit Reebals on a slant route for the 10-yard touchdown pass, before the extra point tied the game at 35-35 with 27 seconds left to force overtime.

With momentum on their side, the Lions got the ball first in OT and punched in another quick score. This time, Reebals did it with his legs, going 8 yards on second down to give Briarwood a 42-35 lead.

Chelsea had one last chance, eventually facing fourth-and-goal from the 10-yard line, but Garrison’s pass was broken up, sending the Lions into celebration mode.

Vizzina finished with 174 passing yards and two touchdowns on 14-of-20 passing, while he added 94 rushing yards and two more touchdowns on 19 carries. Reebals ran for 51 yards and two scores, while Jay butler posted 122 receiving yards and one touchdown on six catches.

Garrison led Chelsea with 325 yards and three touchdowns on 19 of 29 passing, while Matt Gray led the receivers with four catches for 92 yards and a touchdown. Thomas Simpson was just behind with five catches for 88 yards and a touchdown.