Briarwood wins area championship with second-half rally against Pelham

Published 8:34 am Thursday, April 18, 2024

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

PELHAM – After a tightly fought first meeting where not much separated the two sides, the Briarwood Christian Lions and Pelham Panthers appeared to be in a similar deadlock as the second half got underway in their second match of the year on Tuesday, April 16, this time with the area title on the line.

However, the Lions found their way through the Panthers defense on the counter-attack and scored three goals in 10 minutes to pull away for the 4-0 win at Pelham High School to clinch the area championship and the No. 1 seed out of Class 6A, Area 8.

The Lions started the game in control and got a chance off the opening kickoff. Three minutes later, John Lanier put a shot on the side of the goal off a corner kick to keep the offense going.

Briarwood continued to have the better of the chances in the first 15 minutes, including an Ian Robertson curling shot in the seventh minute and a ball sent up in the 10th minute by Brock Shields, but Pelham keeper Raul Jacobo dealt with both efforts well to keep away the scoring threat.

Shortly after, the momentum shifted in the Panthers’ favor. Matthew Chaux forced a pair of big saves from Lions keeper Emerson Maughan in the 16th minute after two of the most dangerous shots of the match to that point.

Pelham placed a couple of balls in perfect position in front of the goal in the 23rd and 28th minute, but the offense couldn’t take advantage and the game remained scoreless.

While the Panthers continued to get the better of the chances for much of the half, Briarwood had multiple shots blocked and a cross saved as the half winded down in the 30th minute. However, neither team broke through and the teams went to halftime tied 0-0.

Just like the Lions did in the first half, Pelham’s Luis Bravo made a run at goal off the second-half kickoff and his shot forced a save from Maughan.

Briarwood recovered from there and got a big chance on goal when John Lanier ripped a shot outside the box straight to the top crossbar in the 43rd minute, but Jacobo got a hand on the ball to get it over the top of the goal between the football goalpost and the crossbar.

Just three minutes later though, the Lions got off on a counterattack and sent a ball to Carson Tucker. He then worked in space to set up a curling shot that bounced off the right post and into the net for the opening goal of the night.

Briarwood wasn’t satisfied with that 1-0 lead and sent a ball to Reece Frost in front of goal in the 51st minute, and Frost finished the effort to double up the lead.

Pelham had a free kick saved by Maughan a minute later, and that preserved the shutout to allow the Lions to extend the lead even further.

Briarwood got another counterattack opportunity in the 55th minute and found Tucker on the run, and he scored once again for his second goal of the night and the Lions’ third goal in 10 minutes.

From there, the Panthers showed signs of life and set up the offense with multiple dangerous balls over the next 10 minutes, but just like the first half, they either couldn’t finish the shots or were met by Maughan’s effort in goal.

After Pelham made a goalkeeper change as part of a quadruple substitution in the 67th minute, the new keeper saved a dangerous shot from Robertson a minute later.

However, Charles Ball was there for the follow-up to extend the lead to 4-0 and continue the celebration for Briarwood.

From there, the Lions saw out the final 12 minutes to seal the clean sheet for Maughan and the defense and claim the area championship.

The next night, Briarwood honored its seniors with a win over Westminster School at Oak Mountain on senior night at Briarwood Christian School.

The Lions earned another clean sheet against one of the top teams from Class 1A-3A to set up the offense to capitalize on the other end.

In the end, Briarwood needed just one goal to secure the victory as it earned the 1-0 win to end senior night on a high note and make it two victories in two nights for the Lions.

Briarwood will finish the regular season with a road trip to McAdory on Tuesday, April 23 at 7 p.m. ahead of its first playoff matchup.

Pelham is also locked in the playoffs but has three matches before it finishes the regular season. The Panthers will next take the pitch on Thursday, April 18 on the road at Chilton County at 7 p.m.