Briarwood shuts out Oak Mountain for 400th win in program history

Published 11:10 pm Friday, September 29, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

NORTH SHELBY – Over 399 wins in the history of the Briarwood Lions, their calling card has been two traits: an aggressive defense and a ball-control offense.

That made it only fitting that Briarwood’s 400th win in program history came in a 21-0 shutout win over the Oak Mountain Eagles on homecoming where the Lions established the run game and dominated on defense.

Briarwood coach Matthew Forester has been there for many of those wins as a player and coach, and while he planned to play a traditional Briarwood game, the Lions exceeded expectations as they earned the first shutout win against a 7A opponent in program history.

“I hoped tonight’s game turned out the way it did,” Briarwood coach Matthew Forester said. “Our defense is finally getting a good feel back, playing aggressive football and our offense is our ball-control style of offense, so it was a good win, good homecoming win.”

After Oak Mountain’s opening drive punt fell short, the Lions took advantage of great field position and drove towards the goal line.

However, three straight Eagles stops and a fourth down penalty that forced the Lions to kick a 36-yard field goal, which was blocked.

The Eagles had another quick punt, but the kick went much deeper, giving Briarwood a longer path to scoring. Nevertheless, the Lions strung together a series of first downs, including one from Sawyer Click and two more on the ground from Kenneth Reynolds.

Cooper Higgins set up the Lions with a 1st and Goal, and he punched in a touchdown shortly after to put Briarwood up 7-0 with a minute left in the quarter.

The Eagles tried to get the ball moving but had to punt again, giving Briarwood a chance to increase its lead. Josh Thompson got the air attack going with first down throws to John Paul Harbor and Click, but the drive stalled out around the 20-yard line as four attempts to get the first down failed.

After the Briarwood turnover on downs, Oak Mountain strung together its best drive of the half. The Eagles made steady gains over the four-minute drive, and they got to the 25-yard line on a defensive pass interference.

The Eagles made a first down to get on the 6-yard line, but the ball-carrier’s attempt to get over the pile ended with the ball loose in the end zone. Rylan Hamm landed on the ball and gave the Lions a crucial turnover.

Briarwood immediately started moving with two gains of 20 yards or more. Oak Mountain also had two personal fouls on the drive, including one on Cooper Higgins’ first down run to put the Lions on 1st and goal. Caleb Keller caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from Thompson to put the Lions up 14-0 going into the locker room.

Forester reminded his defense at halftime to stay focused as they were only up by a pair of scores, and he was proud of how they remained focused for all four quarters amid the homecoming distractions.

“They stayed locked in,” Forester said. “We came in at halftime, talked about how a 14-point lead is a dangerous lead and we’ve got to stay locked in and focused. And they did that.”

After the halftime break, both defenses turned in scoreless performances in the third quarter as the offenses failed to get moving for most of the period.

Briarwood took advantage of an Oak Mountain turnover on downs early in the fourth quarter to set up on their own 45. Early in the drive, Thompson heaved a ball to Click deep in coverage, and Click went up and made a strong catch in coverage to score a 34-yard touchdown.

From there, the Briarwood pass defense held out for the rest of the game as the secondary forced incompletions or short gains in coverage. Grey Reebals caught an interception with five minutes left to let the Lions run out most of the remainder of the game to seal the 21-0 win.

After the historic win, Forester tipped his cap to his former coach, longtime Briarwood boss Fred Yancey, for paving the way for his team to succeed and establishing Briarwood’s identity on defense and offense.

“In a lot of ways, you’re just living off of the work of giants before us, and so I’m grateful to have learned so much from him to be able to have this chance to carry on this tradition,” Forester said.

In the running game for Briarwood, Higgins rushed for 99 yards and a touchdown, and Thompson ran for 59 yards. Thompson also went 11-for-19 passing for 156 yards and two touchdowns, one to Click, who had 65 yards on the night, and the other to Harbor, who had 49 yards.

For Oak Mountain, Will O’Dell passed for 50 yards and rushed for 109 more to lead the Eagles. Jacob Porco led the defense with 10 tackles, and Colton Moore and Drowdy Hackbarth each recorded eight tackles.

Briarwood improves to 3-2 as the Lions prepare to face Helena in a crucial region matchup on Oct. 6. Oak Mountain falls to 1-5, but the Eagles will face the Hoover Bucs, who are also 1-5, on the road in Week 7.