By ANDREW SIMONSON | Special to journalist
SHELBY NORTH – The Briarwood Lions turned their first round of the 6A Playoffs into a decisive victory on Friday, November 5, passing the Fort Payne Wildcats 35-12 to kick off the playoffs.
“Playing a quality team in the first round and doing what we’re supposed to do is pretty good,” Briarwood head coach Matthew Forester said after the game.
Briarwood’s defense came out on the first down with a third save in the red zone, forcing the Wildcats to hit a 28-yard field goal.
The Lions offense responded to the 3-0 deficit with a 70-yard pass to Nicholas Dicen on the third down, which ultimately led to a rushed touchdown for Luke Reebals on a short run that resulted in a 7- lead. 3 to the Lions.
Fort Payne’s next practice saw kicker Alex McPherson punch a 49-yard field goal that reduced Briarwood’s lead to one point.
Two drives later for the Lions, however, Reebals took over with a fourth conversion pass and a 14-yard touchdown run to give the Lions a 14-6 lead.
The teams then traded touchdown points to complete the first half, with Darrell Prater pointing it from the 2-yard line and Vizzina executing her first point of the half from 43 yards thanks to a big block of the offensive line to put the Lions ahead 21-12 at halftime.
The Lions opened the second half in a similar fashion with another Vizzina touchdown, this time from 17 yards to bring the score to 28-12.
Down 16, the Wildcats went on a long haul in hopes of getting back on the board, but even two conversions in third and a defensive pass interference couldn’t stop Gray Reebals recovering the ball to give the ball away. to the Lions. back with two minutes to go in the third.
Vizzina then scored her third touchdown of the night on a 12-game record, while Gray Reebals buried the Wildcats for good with his second interception of the night to seal the 35-12 victory for the Lions.
After the game, Forester said he was proud of the defense for “buying into” what the coaching staff preached, as well as the offense for executing the game plan well.
“I think it’s the commitment of all the guys on the attack to focus and know what they’re doing and then execute it,” he said. “I mean, these games are a running game, we know what they’re going to do, they don’t change a lot, so running is a really important aspect of that, and that’s what the whole offense has. done tonight that i’m really proud of.
Vizzina finished with 88 rushing yards and three touchdowns, while Reebals added 54 yards and two touchdowns. Vizzina also threw for 270 yards, while Nicholas Dicen totaled 144 receiving yards.
Next up for the Lions is a second round clash with number one Clay-Chalkville, who handled business against Decatur, 42-0, on Friday night.
Forester was convinced that the Briarwood team he will take to the road next week is the best possible version of themselves.
“Our goal in the next round is to play as well as possible,” he said. We have to peak at the right time, and I think we are, so being able to face a team like Clay in the second round is a big challenge, but it’s something we look forward to.