Spain Park overcomes miscues to beat Chelsea on homecoming

Published 11:57 pm Friday, October 13, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

HOOVER ­– It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, but the Spain Park Jaguars walked away victorious with a 38-21 win against the Chelsea Hornets on homecoming on Friday, Oct. 13.

“I’ve been in this long enough to know a win’s a win, so we’ll take it,” Spain Park coach Tim Vakakes said. “But that was a lot of undisciplined play. In a few different ways, we got out-coached and out-schemed and outclassed, and our kids played hard, just weren’t smart, and we’ve got to clan that up. Hats off to Chelsea and coach Cassity. Those kids play hard. They do everything right. They had us on the ropes.”

The Jaguars had to overcome penalties in crucial spots, but they accomplished the win off another great night from the Shanks brothers.

Dakarai Shanks went for 14 carries, 140 yards and two touchdowns, while Derick Shanks took 13 carries for 84 yards and a touchdown as the brothers combined for 224 yards.

After a Christian Smith sack on third down, Chelsea was forced to punt on its opening drive. Spain Park tried to get going with a 15-yard catch from Jonathan Bibbs, but a fumble in the backfield gave Chelsea the ball back at its 33-yard line.

The Hornets took advantage by establishing the run game as Emerson Russell received a heavy early work load to control the clock.

Later in the drive, Anthony Lanzi made a 15-yard catch to set themselves up in the red zone, and he caught a short touchdown pass a couple of plays later to put the Hornets up 7-0 with 1:35 left in the first quarter.

Spain Park responded by quickly getting down the field, partly thanks to a pass interference call in the end zone. A few plays later, Derick Shanks put a spin move on and made a lateral run en route to the short score, which tied the game at 7 with 10 minutes left in the second quarter.

Spain Park’s defense forced a quick punt to let Brock Bradley and the air attack get back to work. On the first play of the Jags’ drive, Reggie Jackson drew a pass interference on a deep throw, and the next play, he made a 37-yard catch and run along the right sideline for a touchdown to put Spain Park up 14-7.

Chelsea then took six minutes off the clock with a lengthy drive that included conversions on third down and fourth down by Emerson Russell. Carter Dotson capped off the series with a 6-yard rushing touchdown to tie the game at 14.

That closed out the scoring for the half as both teams got the ball moving on their ensuing drives but couldn’t find the scoreboard.

After the break, Jaguars running back Dakarai Shanks reeled off a 20-yard run to midfield, and he scored on a six-yard run later in the drive to reclaim the lead for Spain Park just two minutes into the third quarter.

While Spain Park took a 21-14 lead, it was quickly in jeopardy due to a lack of discipline by the Jaguars. Three big penalties, including an unsportsmanlike conduct call on the Jags 21, helped Chelsea move the ball up the field.

A controversial sequence capped the drive as a Dotson run on the 9 appeared to be blown dead, but no whistle was blown and the Chelsea quarterback took advantage of the chaos to tie the game at 21 with seven minutes left in the third.

Penalties struck again on the Jags’ next drive when another unsportsmanlike conduct foul on Spain Park backed up the offense and killed a promising drive.

Chelsea tried to get a drive going, but a pitch outside was dropped and led to Christian Smith landing on the ball to reclaim possession for the Jags.

However, a penalty once again hurt Spain Park. An illegal participation flag negated a Dakarai Shanks touchdown run and pushed back the Jags.

After a third down shot to the end zone was broken up by Chelsea’s defense, Alex Lloyd notched a 30-yard field goal to give Spain Park a 24-21 lead late in the third.

Vakakes called many of those penalties selfish and said that his team was scared of handling success the right way.

“When good things happen, celebrate with each other, move on to the next play,” Vakakes said. “Don’t talk to somebody else, don’t try to get attention for yourself. That’s not it. And our kids, we’ve got to learn and it starts with me. I’ve got to do a better job of getting that point across that we’re going to do things right.”

Dotson found Raymond Bridgeman on a first down to midfield, the Hornets tried the deep ball again a few plays later, but Jamari Moseley grabbed the pick in one-on-one coverage and returned the ball into Chelsea territory.

That proved to be the big momentum swing early in the fourth quarter as Bradley hit Jonathan Bibbs in stride for a 23-yard touchdown just three plays into the drive to increase the lead to 31-21.

Spain Park’s defense then forced a turnover on downs, and the Jags quickly moved the ball after starting from midfield. Dakarai Shanks scored his second touchdown of the game, this time from 11-yards out to give the Jags a 38-21 lead that they would hold until the end.

After the game, Vakakes thought his team settled down well after a crazy stretch to close out the win.

“When things get crazy, you have to match craziness with calm, and sometimes we don’t do that and it shows up in various different ways,” Vakakes said. “So, when things hit the fan, because they will, we’ve got to learn how to handle it and be calm. I thought some of our kids and coaches handled it the right way. Some of our kids didn’t, so we’ve got to clean that up.”

Bradley went 8-for-11 for 131 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Jackson was his top target with nine catches for 95 yards and a touchdown.

For Chelsea, Russell earned 119 yards off 28 carries. Dotson was 18-for-35 for 127 yards and three total touchdowns, two rushing and one passing. Jaxon Shuttlesworth was his leading receiver with eight catches for 43 yards.

Next week, on Oct. 20, Spain Park will travel to Hewitt-Trussville and Chelsea will host Hoover.

Chelsea stats provided by Mark McLaughlin.