By Lee Davis
Be honest. If you were a typical high school football fan, you had probably forgotten all about the Mountain Brook Spartans.
And why not? Coach Chris Yeager’s team had lost most of its offensive line from the previous season and was expected to be in rebuilding mode in 2013. Mountain Brook promptly lived down to that expectation, losing its first three games and falling off most people’s collective radar.
And while most folks weren’t watching, the Spartans got better. A lot better. They won five consecutive games to put themselves strongly back into playoff contention in Class 6A’s Region 6.
Despite the nice comeback, most observers expected the Spartans to offer little resistance when third-ranked Vestavia Hills–arguably playing better than almost any team in Alabama–rolled into Spartan Stadium Friday night.
Mountain Brook didn’t get the memo that it was supposed to be fodder for the Rebel Machine. Instead, it battled the favorites tooth and nail, finally finding the answer at the end to pull off a stunning 10-7 upset. Tre Smith’s 41-yard field goal late in the third quarter provided the underdogs the margin of victory.
Yeager sounded much like a prominent college coach in the state when describing the win.
“It’s an awesome victory, but to me it’s more about the journey,” he said. “When we were 0-3, everybody was jumping off the bandwagon. But our kids kept working and believed. They knew there were good things that were going to happen down the road.”
The Spartans’ upset proved once again the meaninglessness of comparative scores. Shades Valley scorched Mountain Brook 45-28 back on Sept. 6. Vestavia routed the Mounties 41-14 last week.
Vestavia started the game according to the script. The Rebels drove the length of the field to score on their first possession. Quarterback Landon Crowder completed two passes totaling 51 yards to Patrick Haywood to get Vestavia deep into Spartan territory. Crowder’s one-yard run and Jack Hatchett’s conversion gave the Rebels a 7-0 lead with 7:29 left in the first quarter. That would be the only time Vestavia would dent the scoreboard.
“We didn’t do anything special on defense,” Yeager said later. “We told our kids to play hard from whistle to whistle, and we’d be proud of them no matter the score. They stepped up tonight and played a great game. Vestavia is a great team and a great program. Anytime you win in this rivalry, it’s special.”
One key to Mountain Brook’s success was its ability to stop Jordan Johnson, the Rebels’ outstanding tailback. He gained only 53 yards in 17 carries and was stopped cold on a fourth-and-two situation on the Spartan 31-yard line in the third period.
Mountain Brook tied the game when Jacob Carroll passed 28 yards to Hunter Branch for a touchdown with seven seconds left in the first half. Smith’s kick knotted the game at 7-7. The Spartans’ drive covered 47 yards in seven plays.
Mountain Brook’s momentum continued in the second half when Drew Odum returned the kickoff 62 yards to the Vestavia 29. The drive died when Carroll was sacked by Dalton Campbell on a fourth-and-two situation.
Mountain Brook made the best of its next possession, driving to the Rebels’ 24-yard line, with Carroll’s 24-yard scramble being the biggest play. Smith’s 41-yard field goal attempt cleared the crossbar by inches and gave the hosts a 10-7 lead with 2:33 left in the third stanza. That lead would prove insurmountable.
“Tre didn’t kick one longer than 40 yards in warm-ups,” Yeager said. “But since we got stopped on our previous drive, we decided to give him a shot.”
Vestavia saw three drives deep into Mountain Brook territory fall short prior to beginning its final assault late in the game. Crowder moved a fourth-and-six situation for a first down at the Spartan 40 with 1:26 to play. Then he threw three incompletions before Andrew Autry intercepted a fourth-down pass with 31 seconds left, ending the Rebels’ last hope.
“Both defenses played really well,” Vestavia coach Buddy Anderson said. “They whipped us when it counted.”
Carroll completed 14 of 24 passes for 141 yards. He also rushed for 32 yards.
“This is a great win for Mountain Brook and our fans,” he said. “You have to give credit to our defense. This is Mountain Brook football.”
“This team is all about family,” he said. “This is one we will all remember when we are old and living in a nursing home.”
Odum had 10 catches for 80 yards.
Mountain Brook’s win gave it a 6-3 mark, 5-2 in region play. Vestavia dropped to 7-2 overall, 6-1 in league competition.
“I think we showed we aren’t the same team that started the season,” Odum said.
Maybe the football world had forgotten Mountain Brook, but the Spartans showed that they haven’t forgotten how to win.
In other games, Hoover won its 24th consecutive game with a surprisingly easy 41-0 domination of Tuscaloosa County. The visiting Wildcats chalked up a mere 59 yards of total offense for the game.
Buccaneer quarterback Jack Hutcheson completed 14 of 17 passes for 220 yards and three touchdowns. Hoover, ranked No. 1 in Class 6A, ran its record to 9-0.
Homewood continued its march through Class 5A rivals with a 66-0 rout of Talladega. Walter Rutledge led the Patriots with 144 yards on the ground and four touchdowns. Homewood moved to 8-1 overall and 7-0 in Class 5A Region 4 play.
Pelham rallied from a 24-14 halftime deficit to surprise Spain Park 27-24, handing the Jaguars their first defeat of the season. Highlights for Spain Park included an 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Otis Harris and a blocked punt recovery for a score by Phillip Brown. The normally potent Jaguar offense was held to just 106 total yards.
Spain Park fell to 8-1 overall and 6-1 in Class 6A Region 4 play.
Oak Mountain defeated Thompson 36-22, with a 69-yard scoring play from quarterback Warren Shader to his brother, wide receiver Harold Shader, being the biggest play. Warren Shader finished with 143 yards on the ground and 76 via the passing lanes. The Eagles raised their record to 4-5 for the season.
Breaking open a scoreless first half, Briarwood’s Walker Lott ran for two touchdowns and passed for another to lead the Lions to a 26-6 win over John Carroll. Briarwood improved its record to 7-2 for the year and 7-1 in Class 5A Region 4 play. The Cavaliers slumped to 2-7 overall, 2-6 in region play.
Shades Mountain Christian was defeated by Meek 43-13.