Schedule Breakdown: Briarwood prepares for difficult region and familiar foes

Published 11:17 am Wednesday, August 2, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

Going into the 2023 season, Briarwood is in the familiar position of reloading talent, and in an even more familiar position of facing strong opponents throughout the season.

The Lions have a difficult schedule ahead of them in their second year of playing in 6A Region 3, but they also have a lot of rising stars and a great core of veteran leaders behind a successful veteran coach in Matthew Forester to face it.

Briarwood opens their schedule by hosting 2021 state champion Clay-Chalkville on Aug. 25. Briarwood faced the Cougars in the second round of the 2021 playoffs as well as in the 2022 season opener, and the Lions lost both games. While this will undoubtedly be a tough test right out of the gate, Briarwood will definitely be motivated to not make it three in a row and at least make it a close game to make a statement.

Afterwards, Briarwood will travel just down the road to Spain Park on Sept. 1. Every year, this contest is highly anticipated because of how close the schools are, but this year there is even more because of Briarwood’s two-point win last year. The Jags will be ready to get one back at home, while the Lions will be out to prove last year wasn’t a fluke and earn another big win over a 7A team.

Then, Briarwood will stay on the road in Week 3 to face Chilton County on Sept. 8. The Tigers were the Lions’ lone region win last year, but Chilton County has some talented players on their team and won’t be an easy game, as last year’s 35-29 contest can attest.

Briarwood will then host county foe Pelham on Sept. 15. Pelham were a second-round playoff team last year and look to be just as good, if not better than last year, so this will be a great test against a top team in the region that is also a local rival.

The Lions bye week is on Sept. 22, and then they host their rivals from down the road, the Oak Mountain Eagles, on Sept. 29. It may be a non-region game, but the players know each other well from being so close to each other, so both teams will show up ready to play. Briarwood won last year’s meeting by 20, which means the Lions will need to be ready for an Oak Mountain team seeking revenge.

After their two week break from region play, Briarwood will resume their quest for region gold on the road against Helena on Oct. 6. The Huskies should be another tough test for Briarwood this year, but after losing by just 10 points to Helena last season, Briarwood should feel like they can give Helena another good game this year.

Briarwood will then host Calera on Oct. 13, which is a rematch of their double-overtime thriller from last season. A lot has changed with both teams since they met last season, and each team will have a different signal caller from last year’s matchup, but since the game is late in the season, both sides should have an idea of who they are, which could make for another great game like last year between two athletic teams.

After that, Briarwood will close their region schedule with road trips to two of the perennial top teams in the region: Ben Russell and Homewood.

First, the Lions will face Ben Russell on Oct. 20. Briarwood was very close to knocking off the Wildcats last year, as they only lost 16-14, but the offense will likely need to put up more points against Ben Russell’s defense to flip this game into a win this year. Expect Ben Russell to be another stout test for the Lions, but Briarwood knows that this game isn’t an impossible game to win.

Briarwood will then wrap up their region slate against Homewood on Oct. 27 at Waldrop Stadium. The Lions had a hard time figuring out the Patriots defense last year with only 10 points to show for in their 2022 meeting at Lions Pride Stadium. If their offense has settled into a late season rhythm, Briarwood has a chance to put up some points on Homewood’s defense, but if Homewood’s offense has done the same with a new quarterback, the Lions defense will need to hold up their end of the field as well.

Finally, Briarwood will make a trip down to the coast to play Fairhope on Nov. 3 to close out the regular season. Fairhope is a perennial playoff team in Class 7A, Region 1, which will make this game a tough test for the Lions, but if Briarwood is set for a return to the playoffs by this point, it will be good preparation for the caliber of opponents they will face in the playoffs.