By Lee Davis Journal
To be completely honest, not many people were expecting much from the Vestavia Hills Rebels in 2010. The Rebels were generally thought to be too young and too thin to compete seriously for the Class 6A Region 6 championship in 2010.
Certainly Vestavia was expected to have a winning season and maybe even pull off an upset or two along the way, but few except the truest of believers really imagined the Rebels actually contending for a title. If the events of Sept. 24 were any indication, the conventional wisdom was wrong. Vestavia showed its muscle by rolling over previously unbeaten 5A power Briarwood, dominating the second half on the way to an impressive 34-10 victory.
The win moved the Rebels’ record to 5-0 and means they will be heavily favored to be undefeated entering their epic Oct. 15 confrontation with archrival Hoover. The game wasn’t a total picnic for Vestavia, however, as ace running back Georgie Salem suffered a leg injury in the second quarter and did not return. Sophomore running back Stuart Jacobs filled in ably, rushing for 90 yards on just 10 carries and scoring a touchdown. “All I had to do was run through the holes,” Jacobs said later. “Georgie is our star, but we couldn’t let him down when he went out.
We had to fight to win.” The Rebels opened the scoring in the first period, when Ryan Raspino’s 32-yard field goal gave Vestavia a 3-0 lead. Late in the first quarter, Elliott Martin intercepted a Briarwood pass and returned it to the Lion 16. Josh Brown’s 11-yard touchdown run gave the Rebels a 10-0 lead with 11:26 remaining in the first half. Briarwood battled back. Wilson Whorton’s 44-yard field goal cut the margin to 10-3. The Lions put together a drive late in the half. Quarterback Ben Craft’s 23-yard touchdown strike to Daniel Roberts tied the game at 10-10.
Briarwood seemed to have the momentum early in the third quarter, as the Lions drove to Vestavia’s 27-yard line. But the Rebels’ Paden Crowder recovered a fumble to stop the drive. Vestavia moved to Briarwood’s seven-yard line before Raspino’s 24-yard field goal put the Rebels ahead 13-10. On Vestavia’s next possession, quarterback Patrick Prewitt passed 47 yards to Neil Gannaway for a touchdown that raised the advantage to 20-10 with 1:27 remaining in the third period. The hosts continued their domination in the final stanza. Jacobs’ 18-yard touchdown run early in the quarter pushed the Rebels’ lead to 27-10. Prewitt and Gannaway hooked up again for Vestavia’s final score.
The pair’s second touchdown connection came from 23 yards out with 7:12 left in the game. “Briarwood always has a great team. Coach Yancey does a great job,” said Rebel coach Buddy Anderson. “I’m very proud of what our young men did tonight.” The story of the night may have been the play of the Vestavia defensive unit, which stifled the Lions’ offense for most of the evening. The Rebels forced four turnovers, made 11 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and allowed a mere 37 yards on the ground. Prewitt completed five of 13 passes for 111 yards and two touchdowns.
Craft completed 15 of 23 passes for 183 yards, but Vestavia defenders intercepted two of his passes. Many challenges remain, but the Rebels turned in their most impressive performance so far in beating Briarwood and rolling to five consecutive wins. And by the looks of things, the best may still be ahead.