By Lee Davis
Journal Sports Writer
Spain Park’s visit to Mountain Brook had Class 7A playoff implications, but as the teams kicked off, nobody could know who was going where.
Hoover and Oak Mountain had long ago clinched the top two spots in Region 3, leaving the Jaguars, Spartans, Vestavia Hills, Tuscaloosa County and Hewitt-Trussville in a bizarre battle royal for the final two tickets for post-season play. So thin was the potential margin of difference between the five schools that the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s designated tiebreaker No. 17 was even considered a remote possibility. For those who don’t have an AHSAA handbook available, tiebreaker No. 17 is a coin flip. The question of who could have correctly called heads or tails might have sent one team into the playoffs and the other into off-season workouts.
Thankfully, that didn’t happen. The final two playoff slots were determined on the field.
Unfortunately, the night’s final outcome meant that neither Spain Park nor Mountain Brook would be playing after October.
The Jaguars’ 19-0 conquest of the Spartans may have been Spain Park’s most impressive overall effort of the season, but it wasn’t enough. Tuscaloosa County’s 14-7 win over Vestavia gave the Wildcats the No. 3 playoff slot. Hewitt Trussville–despite losing to Hoover–earned the fourth and final slot by virtue of its 64-63 overtime win over the Jaguars on Sept. 19.
“All we could do is come over here and get the win,” Spain Park coach Shawn Raney said. “After that, it was in God’s hands.”
The Jags aren’t a playoff team, but they sure looked like one against Mountain Brook. The Spain Park defense held the Spartans to a mere 21 yards passing as it earned the shutout. Mountain Brook had only 65 yards of total offense in the first half and got inside the Jaguar 20-yard line only once during the entire game. Hayden Fike’s recovery of a Spartan fumble stopped the advance.
“We played a complete game, and this is really the first time all year we’ve done that,” Raney said “Our quarterback did a great job throwing the ball, and our defense was outstanding all night.
Mason Duke, the quarterback to whom Raney was referring, completed 18 of 21 passes for 203 yards and a touchdown.
The visitors took charge in the first quarter after Rondarius Johnson intercepted a Mountain Brook pass to give Spain Park good field position. Facing a fourth-and-11 from the Spartan 27-yard line, Duke passed to Owen Carr for a touchdown. Tyler Sumpter’s conversion gave the Jaguars a 7-0 lead with 5:02 remaining in the period.
“That first touchdown turned out to be a huge play and set the tempo,” Duke said. “Our coaches had us ready to play and gave us a great game plan.”
Sumpter also helped his team’s cause in the first quarter by launching a 67-yard punt.
Spain Park drove into field goal range twice in the second stanza. The first drive stalled at the Mountain Brook six-yard line, where Sumpter booted a 23-yard field goal. The second thrust ended at the Spartan 22-yard line. This time Sumpter connected on a 39-yard attempt to give his team a 13-0 halftime advantage.
Any realistic hopes for a Mountain Brook comeback were dashed in the third period, when Duke passed to Bridge Suber for a 35-yard touchdown with 8:17 on the clock. The extra point failed, but Spain Park had more than enough points to seal the deal.
Carr caught eight passes for 114 yards. Wade Streeter paced the Jags’ running game, earning 91 yards on 23 carries.
“The coaches made a great call for that first touchdown,” Carr said. “We watched a lot of film this week, and we thought that play would work.”
Streeter credited the offensive line for Spain Park’s dominating performance.
“They work so hard every day in practice–I totally put my trust in them,” he said. “And what can you say about our defense?”
Spain Park rose to 5-4 overall and a final record of 3-4 in region play. It will close its season against Bessemer City.
Mountain Brook dropped to 3-6 for the year and ended with a 3-4 region record. The Spartans have been a hard-luck team in 2014, losing three games in the final minute. The loss to Spain Park provided no such drama.
The Jaguars will be spectators in November, but their impressive showing against Mountain Brook should warm their winter.