Spain Park blanks Calera as offense erupts for 55 points

Published 10:45 pm Friday, August 25, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

CALERA – The Spain Park Jaguars preached all offseason long that they had the chance to do something special this year, and they made a strong first impression in game one.

The Jags shut out the Calera Eagles, 55-0, on Friday, Aug. 25 at Calera High School in Eagles coach Jerad Holder’s first game as interim head coach.

“I’m proud of the kids,” Spain Park coach Tim Vakakes said. “It’s just been a long process to get the season started, and I thought they played with a lot of energy. Our coaches have done a good job preparing them and I think they got a chance. I love this team.”

After the teams traded opening punts, Spain Park took advantage of great field position as Dakarai Shanks ran in the touchdown from inside the 10-yard line, which gave the Jags a 6-0 lead after a blocked extra point.

The Calera offense then continued their rough start with a fumbled handoff on the first play of the drive that was recovered by the offense. A high snap on the ensuing play went through the back of the end zone and gave Spain Park a safety and the ball back.

Now up 8-0, Spain Park wasted no time adding to their lead as Brock Bradley loaded up and threw a deep ball to Reggie Jackson for the 55-yard score to go up 15-0.

On the next play, Jared Smith recovered a fumble and set up Derick Shanks to score two plays later, which put the Jags up 22-0 just five minutes into the game.

Vakakes said the goal for Spain Park is always to start fast, and he was glad that they got a chance to practice what they preached against Calera.

“Well, we always talk about starting fast,” Vakakes said. “We hadn’t been able to do that a lot, but here we did. Our guys started making some plays and we were opportunistic on defense, and the offense, they had a pretty good day and we’re proud of them.”

Calera’s Quatez Williams had a great third down conversion catch to give the Eagles a first down, but they punted the ball away shortly after to give the Jags the ball back.

Spain Park took over on the 12-yard line, but they marched down the field thanks to a pair of big throws from Brock Bradley. The first was to Mitchell Fraser for a 37-yard gain, and then Bo Jones caught the ball along the sideline and made a strong cut towards midfield to finish off the 38-yard score.

Now up 29-0 with three minutes to go in the first quarter, the Jags defense forced a quick punt and capitalized early in the second quarter with a 22-yard touchdown catch from Jonathan Bibbs to go up 36-0.

From there until halftime, the teams traded drives but were unable to build enough momentum to find the end zone, and Spain Park entered the locker room with a commanding 36-0 lead.

On the first drive of the second half, Derick Shanks took advantage of solid blocking to open up for a 45-yard touchdown up the right side to go up by 42.

Ryan Breazeale recovered a Calera fumble to set the Jags up on the 13-yard line, and this time, it was Dakarai Shanks who reached the end zone just two plays into the drive.

With four touchdowns between the Shanks brothers in the game, Vakakes said that both running backs embody who Spain Park is this year.

“I think both Shanks brothers kind of represented who we are as a program,” Vakakes said. “They run the ball with venom, they run the ball with venom in their veins. And that’s what we’re trying to build. We’re trying to hit with venom, run with venom, block with venom, workout in the weight room with venom. They showed who we are and what we’re trying to do.”

Now up 48-0 late in the third quarter, Charleston Gray finished off the scoring for the Jags with a rushing touchdown, and Spain Park carried a 55-0 win through the fourth quarter until the end.

While Vakakes is proud of his team’s effort on the night, he knows that this is just one game in a long season and wants to use the momentum to propel the Jags forward.

“We’ve just got to keep building on it,” Vakakes said. “I keep talking to the kids about moving the needle of the program. We put the work in, but moving the needle means wins on Friday nights, and we’ve got to keep doing it.”

Spain Park’s next chance for a win on a Friday night comes against local rival Briarwood in the Jags’ home opener on Sept. 1. Meanwhile, Calera will travel to Chelsea on the same night to take on the Hornets for their second straight game against a 7A team to open the season.