By Rubin E. Grant
Yeager Sets Milestone as Mountain Brook Advances in State Football Playoffs
Chris Yeager can thank the Spartans’ defense for making him Mountain Brook’s winningest football coach in program history.
The Spartans’ defense intercepted four passes as Mountain Brook shut out Austin 31-0 in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs last week.
The win was Yeager’s 101st at Mountain Brook, surpassing Joey Jones, who won 100 games as the Spartans’ head coach from 1996 to 2005.
Yeager came to Mountain Brook 20 years ago as Jones’ offensive coordinator and has been head coach for the past 13 years.
“I’m the most blessed football coach, I can promise you that,” Yeager said. “I came here 20 years (ago) for a coaching job and ended up finding a home. As far as the record, it wasn’t just me, but a generational milestone for all the guys who have coached here. I see it as an extension of coach Jones’ program because he brought me here. I feel he’s a part of this.
“I hope one day when I hang up my whistle and go to the farm that some young buck comes in and quickly breaks this thing because it will mean Mountain Brook is still winning.”
Yeager’s son, senior linebacker Colton Yeager, played a key role in the milestone victory. He had two interceptions, returning the first one 65 yards for a touchdown late in the second quarter to give the Spartans a 10-0 halftime lead.
Grant Griffin intercepted a pass on the third play of the game, which led to an Atkins Roberts 37-yard field goal. Collin Bussman had the other pick early in the second quarter.
Mountain Brook scored 17 points off turnovers and a bad punt snap led to another touchdown. The Spartans held Austin to only 162 total yards.
“Our defense is playing so well as a unit,” coach Yeager said. “They swarm to the ball and tackle in packs. It’s fun to watch.”
The Spartans’ offense shook off a sluggish first half to do its part. Quarterback Strother Gibbs scored twice on runs of 13 and 1 yards in the second half. Colton Yeager’s second pick late in the third quarter led to A.J. Gates’ 43-yard touchdown run on the very next play. Gates finished with 116 yards rushing on 15 carries.
Mountain Brook (9-2) will visit Class 7A, Region 3 rival Hoover (8-3) in the second round Friday at the Hoover Met. The Bucs defeated the Spartans 31-7 on Oct. 26 during the regular season to claim the region title.
“Playing them before, I think we learned a lot about ourselves,” coach Yeager said. “We’re not going to stop them from making big plays, but we have to limit their big plays, and we have to be very opportunistic.”
Bucs Rally In Second Half to Advance
Two-time defending Class 7A champion Hoover needed to come back in the second half to advance.
The Bucs trailed Bob Jones 10-6 at halftime before rallying for a 26-18 win in a penalty-filled game. Hoover had 15 penalties for 190 yards and Bob Jones was flagged 12 times for 116 yards. Most of the infractions on both sides were personal foul and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
After building a 26-10 lead, the Bucs had to hang on in the final minute. They gave up a fumble return for a score with 13 seconds left and a two-point conversion, and then they had to recover an on-sides kick to secure victory.
Hoover’s only scoring in the first half came on two Will Reichard field goals of 20 and 44 yards.
But the Bucs scored three touchdowns in the second half to take command. Senior running back Larry McCammon scored on a 3-yard run, junior quarterback Robby Ashford connected with senior wide receiver George Pickens on a 16-yard touchdown pass, and sophomore running back Dylan Pauley scored on a 9-yard run.
Birthday Boy Sparks Patriots
Homewood senior quarterback Larkin Williams celebrated his 18th birthday in style, leading the Patriots to a 24-14 Class 6A first-round victory against Athens at Waldrop Stadium.
Williams completed 15 of 19 passes for 141 yards and rushed for a touchdown.
Homewood led 17-0 early in the second quarter but had seen its lead whittled to 17-14 before freshman running back Hansin Dalton scored on a 15-yard run early in the fourth quarter.
The Patriots had built their early lead on KeOnte Davis’ 5-yard scoring run on Homewood’s first possession, Lane Gilchrist’s 28-yard field goal late in the first quarter and Williams’ 1-yard touchdown plunge.
The Patriots (9-2) will visit Gardendale (6-5) in the second round Friday night.
Lions’ Special Teams Come up Big
Briarwood Christian’s special teams scored twice to spark the Lions’ 42-28 Class 5A first-round victory over visiting Valley.
Senior J.R. Tran-Reno returned a kickoff 92 yards for one of his four touchdowns. Defensive back Cade Dickinson scooped up a blocked punt and returned it 39 yards for another score. Dickinson also had an interception.
The Lions blocked three kicks, two by Matthew McKenna, including the punt that Dickinson returned. Dalton Brooks blocked a field goal attempt.
Tran-Reno, who alternated between running back and quarterback, also scored on three short runs, covering 2, 5 and 1 yards. Luke Prewitt had a 45-yard TD run before sustaining an ankle injury early in the third quarter that could sideline him for the Lions’ second-round game.
The Lions (9-2) will travel to Mobile on Friday to face Vigor (10-1) at Prichard Memorial Stadium.