By Lee Davis
Spain Park and Oak Mountain have always been natural rivals. Their close proximity in North Shelby County and their comparative newness – the respective schools have been in existence only for little more than a decade – have given their annual football meetings an air of freshness and energy.
And in the short time the teams have been competing, rarely has there been as much at stake as last Friday night.
The Jaguars and Eagles were battling for a shot at supremacy in Class 6A’s Region 4, as both programs have enjoyed better-than-expected seasons. But as the smoke cleared late that evening at Spain Park’s Finley Stadium, it was apparent that one team is ready to stake its particular claim to greatness.
The Jaguars combined an impressive aerial show with a dominating defense to whip the Eagles 34-13 in a game the hosts controlled virtually from start to finish.
One of the prime movers was quarterback Nick Mullens, who completed 40 of 46 passes for 322 yards and three touchdowns.
The high completion percentage was in part because of Mullens’ effective use of screen passes to Spain Park’s talented array of backs and receivers.
“I just put the ball in the hands of our playmakers, and they made the plays tonight,” said the quarterback. “It’s easy to complete passes when you’re throwing screens all night.”
The Jaguars set the tone on their second possession of the game. Otis Harris’s 24-yard touchdown run gave Spain Park a 7-0 lead.
Mullens and his teammates scored again on their next opportunity. Completing five consecutive passes on the drive, the signal caller’s seven-yard scoring strike to Matt Berler gave the Jags a 14-0 lead before the first quarter ended.
Spain Park moved into Oak Mountain territory twice in the second period before having to settle for field goal attempts. Thomas Taylor’s two successful kicks gave the Jaguars a 20-0 halftime advantage.
The Eagles didn’t get much relief in the third period. On Spain Park’s second possession, the Jags added to their lead. Mullens led his team on an 11-play march that ended with his six-yard touchdown pass to Cade Hoffman.
Taylor’s conversion gave the Jaguars a commanding 27-0 margin.
Oak Mountain used its special teams play to get its first points of the game. The Eagles blocked a punt, and Riley Fowler ran 11 yards with the loose ball for a touchdown, cutting the margin to 27-6 before the quarter ended.
Early in the final stanza, Spain Park stuck for the final time. Mullens’ 12-yard touchdown pass to M.J. Brown raised the score to 34-6.
The visitors earned a consolation touchdown late in the game, when Harold Shador reached the goal line on a 20-yard dash, bringing the final to 34-13.
Harris complemented Mullens’ passing performance by rushing for 132 yards. Scott Hester sparked Oak Mountain by rushing for 76 yards.
Spain Park moved to 6-1 for the season and 5-0 in region play. The Eagles fell to 5-2 overall, 3-2 in league competition.
Afterward, Jaguar coach Chip Lindsey saluted his team.
“It’s fun coming to work every day,” he said. “These kids do everything that’s asked of them. They are a great group with whom to work.
“Our senior class is great, too. If you don’t think that’s a big deal, try going through a season where you don’t have good senior leadership.”
Lindsey and his team don’t have much time to rest on their laurels. They must visit Stanhope Elmore next, where a victory over the Mustangs will give Spain Park its first-ever region championship.
“Our guys are eager and hungry to do something our program has never done before,” said Lindsey. “I can see it in their faces. All of our goals are still in front of us.”
And for the moment, the Jaguars have bragging rights over the school with which they have so much in common.