Spain Park comes up short against Vestavia Hills

Published 11:47 pm Friday, September 22, 2023

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By STEPHEN DAWKINS | Special to the Reporter

VESTAVIA HILLS – After opening the season with two wins, Spain Park dropped its third straight game, 26-8, at Vestavia Hills on Friday, Sept. 22.

“We just we had a lot of opportunities to take the game; we just didn’t do it,” Spain Park coach Tim Vakakes said. “There’s going to come a point in time where Spain Park takes those types of games and we’re going to be competing for championships.”

The host Rebels opened the game with an 80-yard touchdown drive—capped by a 36-yard scoring strike from John Paul Head to Chase Webb—and never looked back even though the point-after attempt was blocked.

VHHS added a field goal and led 9-0 at the end of the first quarter.

A touchdown pass from Head to Cooper Mollison gave Vestavia a 16-0 lead, which was the score at the end of the first half of play and also at the end of the third quarter.

In the final frame, Vestavia added another field goal, but then Dakarai Shanks got Spain Park on the scoreboard with a 16-yard touchdown run. A 2-point conversion attempt for the Jaguars was successful to trim the lead to 19-8 with 6:03 remaining in the game.

That was as close as the visitors would get, as Vestavia’s William Tonsmeire concluded the scoring with a 62-yard touchdown run to make it 26-8.

Despite the loss and the Jags not being able to capitalize after turnovers and big plays, Vakakes is proud of his team for not being intimidated by facing one of the top teams in the state on the road in Vestavia.

“Our kids stayed together, our coaches stayed positive and stayed together,” Vakakes said. “We learned a lot about them. They walked into that stadium not scared, and they sat there and kept swinging until the 12th round. We just  gave up some plays on defense, but we’re playing that type of offense and with how good they are, it’s hard not to. But when you get an opportunity against teams like that, in those moments, you’ve got to take advantage.”

Brock Bradley was 10-for-18 passing for 74 yards, and Alex Lloyd completed his lone pass attempt for 31 yards.

In the return of both Shanks brothers to the lineup, Dakarai Shanks rushed for 40 yards and a touchdown off 11 carries, and Derick Shanks had 11 carries and 36 yards.

Jonathan Bibbs led all receivers with 53 yards off six catches to go with his 110 kickoff return yards from four returns. Braden Matherson had one reception for 31 yards, Jaylon Hatcher had 20 yards off three catches and Cam McFarlin secured one catch for six yards.

The matchup against Vestavia Hills wraps up a tough three-game stretch against Hoover, Thompson as well, and Vakakes is proud of what he saw from his team despite facing injuries and tough competition. He hopes to take advantage of Spain Park’s more favorable schedule the rest of the way to move up the region standings.

“Going through the gauntlet that we did and our kids are still standing swinging, it’s just a testament how tough these kids are,” Vakakes said. “We’re going to regroup on our bye week and try to get a bunch of guys help and try to make some noise the second half of our season.”

After a bye week, Spain Park visits Tuscaloosa County on Friday, Oct. 6, for another important region tilt.