By Blake Ells
Briarwood Christian’s defense proved too stout for Etowah in the quarterfinals – allowing just 181 yards – and the Lions remained unbeaten with a 31-0 victory. They advance to meet St. Clair County in the 5A semifinals.
The Blue Devils successfully contained the Briarwood Christian running game, but the Lions found other ways to create opportunities.
“We had some big plays throwing the ball and our defense played really well,” said head coach Fred Yancey. “Sometimes you’ve got to beat them through the air and sometimes you’ve got to beat them on the ground.”
Carson Eddy led the offensive attack with 115 total yards and a rushing touchdown. Quarterback Michael Hiers had 231 yards and a couple of touchdowns through the air.
The Lions now turn their attention to a rematch that could propel them to a shot at their first state championship in more than a decade. They’ll face a potent St. Clair County passing attack.
“Our secondary has really got to play well,” Yancey said. “St. Clair does a lot of great stuff with their passing game, and our secondary has got to stay on them and knock a few balls down. We’ve got to get some pressure on their quarterback. And we need to run the ball better.”
Briarwood Christian cruised in the matchup earlier this season with a 31-6 victory at home. But things have changed since Oct. 6, Yancey said.
“They’ve improved a bunch since then,” said Yancey. “They’re more comfortable with their new coaching staff and they’re really clicking right now. They’ve got some talented offensive players that do a great job and they’re more efficient than they were in the middle of the year.”
That loss earlier this season was the back half of a two-game skid for the Fighting Saints. Since, they’ve dropped just one more, a 26-7 loss at Wenonah that they avenged last week with a 27-26 overtime win.
A season ago, Briarwood Christian fell in the semifinals. Yancey said returning players from that team are eager to cement their legacy as champions; 19 seniors are on this year’s roster. The Lions have won three state championships on his watch, and they fell in the championship games in 2007 and 2010.
“They have to put up with me telling them stories about our past and our tradition a lot,” said Yancey. “But I think they like it. They know that someday I’ll be talking about them. They enjoy connecting with the past, and we’ve made a conscious effort that every year, we want to hold our current team to a high standard because the past teams have been willing to do it and they need to do it also.”
The other side of the bracket features a matchup between St. Paul’s Episcopal School and Demopolis High School, two tradition-rich programs that also are familiar with the path.