Oak Mountain, Spain Park kick off inaugural girls flag football

Published 11:14 pm Tuesday, September 28, 2021

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

HOOVER – It was a night that will stand alone in history for Oak Mountain and Spain Park, and one players of each school’s inaugural girls flag football team will always remember, as the Eagles and Jags opened the sport’s first season on Tuesday, Sept. 28.

The two teams, alongside Vestavia Hills, competed in one game apiece against each other to kick off the historic 2021 season with all three teams winning one game.

Spain Park dropped its opener to Vestavia Hills, while Oak Mountain opened the season with a win against the Rebels.

That led to a matchup between the host Jaguars and the Eagles to put a cap on the special night, and it ended with a bang when Spain Park scored in the final minute to break a 6-6 tie and win 13-6 for the team’s first win of the season.

In the opening game of the season, Spain Park hosted Vestavia and got off to a solid start with two first-half touchdowns.

The Jags scored on a touchdown pass from Emily Stricklin to Lillian Gourley—a duo that was strong all night—as well as a touchdown run from Stricklin.

Vestavia Hills, however, matched Spain Park’s two early scores with one touchdown, and then, the Rebels were able to score with two minutes left in the half to tie the game 12-12 at the break.

The Rebels took advantage of the swing in momentum and came out with a strong start in the second half.

On their opening drive of the half, the Rebels reeled off a 55-yard run after breaking through a group of defenders and not having the flag pulled. One play later, they capped the drive off with a touchdown and converted the one-point play to take a 19-12 advantage with 18:10 to play.

Spain Park’s defense played well the rest of the way, giving the offense opportunities at a comeback, but the Jags never could convert the opportunities into points, leading to the 19-12 loss.

Vestavia Hills carried that momentum into the Oak Mountain game shortly after, but it was the Eagles who came out determined in their season opener.

Nine minutes into the game, Oak Mountain’s Sarah Jacobik started her impressive night with a 60-yard touchdown to put the Eagles up 6-0.

Oak Mountain took that lead into the half after a strong defensive first 20 minutes to the game.

Then, early in the second half, the Eagles continued that impressive play defensively when they forced a turnover to give the ball back to Oak Mountain’s offense.

After a sack, Victoria Hood then hit Bailee Walker for 25 yards to set up the Eagles in a first-and-goal situation. It didn’t take long for Hood to then hit Jennings Sinclair for a 3-yard touchdown pass to make it 12-0.

Vestavia Hills had opportunities late to come back, but the Eagles made big play after big play.

Jacobik had an interception deep in Oak Mountain territory on the ensuing drive, while the Eagles forced a punt on the next defensive series and picked up an interception on the final defensive series to put the game to rest.

That led into a county battle between the Eagles and the Jaguars, which went down to the wire to close out an exciting night.

Spain Park came out looking to bounce back from its opening loss, and the Jags got off to a strong start on their opening drive.

Stricklin hit Gourley for another big pass of 23 yards, which quickly set up a 2-yard touchdown run from Stricklin a few plays later for a 6-0 lead.

With a rejuvenated effort defensively, that became enough for Spain Park to take the halftime lead.

Oak Mountain’s offense couldn’t find the same rhythm it had the game before and either punted or had a turnover on every drive of the first half.

The Eagles, however, were able to continue playing solid defense themselves after the opening drive, which allowed them to remain down just six going into the second half.

The first four drives combined between the two teams in the second half ended with turnovers. Oak Mountain turned it over on downs each of their first two drives, while the Jags threw two interceptions.

The second of those interceptions by the Eagles became key.

It led to a lengthy drive that was kick-started by a 2-yard run from Hood on fourth-and-inches.

That was followed by a dominant rest of the drive from Jacobik. She ran for 16 yards and 7 yards on back to back plays to set up first-and-goal from the 17-yard line with 6:25 to play.

One play later, Jacobik put together one last impressive run, making a sharp cut back to her left and sprinting 17 yards to the end zone to tie the game 6-6 with 4:50 to play.

But Spain Park came back with a huge answer in the final four minutes.

The Jaguars quickly faced fourth-and-11 on their own 29-yard line, but they had an answer when Stricklin hit Kaitlyn Bellanca for 28 yards and a first down.

Shortly after, on first-and-goal from the 13-yard line, Stricklin and Gourley connected one last time on an 8-yard touchdown that eventually became the game winner for the Jags in a 13-6 victory.

Oak Mountain got the ball back with 48 seconds left but couldn’t move the ball as time expired to end the night.

Each team won a game during the opening night and all three games were decided by two scores or less.