By Blake Ells
Mountain Brook defeated second ranked Hewitt-Trussville on the road Oct. 12 to remain undefeated and take over first place in 7A, Region 3. It was the first game of a stretch that also includes Thompson and Hoover.
“I’ve been coaching for 36 years,” said head coach Chris Yeager. “I’ve been a part of national and state championships. In 2011, we beat Hoover for the region championship, but this one, to me, it moves to the very top to me.
“This restores a lot of faith in people about what high school football is all about. The fastest doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest doesn’t always win the battle. We were very honest with our kids going into the game. Football is a game of mass times acceleration. You can measure mass with a scale and acceleration with a watch. They were bigger than we are. They were stronger than we are. They were faster than we are. But the thing you can’t measure is you can’t measure the engine that drives all of that, which is the heart.”
The Spartans rushed for 301 total yards, including 128 from A.J. Gates. Gates had an 80-yard touchdown run near the end of the first half that propelled the Spartans to the win.
“Everyone doubted us at the beginning, saying we weren’t going to beat anyone and that we were going to have a bad season,” Gates said. “Our team pushed each other so hard, and coach Yeager always told us to play for the person that’s next to you. Not for yourself. That’s what we’re doing. We’re playing for each other and giving our all and getting the outcome we want that no one expected from us.”
The “toughest region in high school football” had long been written off as a three team race between Hewitt-Trussville, Thompson and Hoover. But Mountain Brook had other plans, and before heading into games against the latter two, they sat alone at the top.
“In that first poll, we weren’t even in the top ten,” said Yeager. “We weren’t even mentioned. We weren’t even among the ‘best of the rest.’ I understand why. There are guys that have a bunch of stars beside their names and guys that have a bunch of scholarship offers. I get it. The most fulfilling thing to me is that doesn’t always tell the whole story.”
Now, the Spartans will host Thompson and Alabama commitment Taulia Tagovailoa.
“We’re facing probably the best passing quarterback in the state,” Yeager said. “We’ll march on. Being in the driver’s seat can last a very, very short amount of time. We’re going to get to check our maturity level.”
Clark Griffin had a big interception for the Spartans late in the first half in the game against Hewitt-Trussville. With 1:34 remaining in the first half and the Huskies trailing 10-7, he nabbed a Paul Tyson pass in the end zone that set up the 80-yard Gates score. That changed the direction.
Sophomore quarterback Strother Gibbs added 83 yards rushing on 17 carries in the win.
Gibbs has made a huge impact this season at a young age.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone play with as much composure as he has,” said Yeager. “He has a very mature demeanor. Nothing rattles him. When he has a bad play, he may be the best I’ve seen at moving forward.”
There’s a lot left ahead, and Yeager and his players know what they face,
“We have to keep up the good work and not give up on each other and keep playing for the guy next to us,” said Gates. “We need to go harder every day and not take plays off and have fun with the game and enjoy it and keep winning.”
The Spartans are in the playoffs. Much of how their 2018 story is written will be determined when they host Thompson and travel to Hoover in the next week. This group is ready for the challenge.