By Lee Davis
Spain Park’s patented fourth quarter magic showed up again in the Class 7A football finals against McGill-Toolen.
This time, the ending wasn’t quite what Jaguar fans had seen in the past.
Trailing the Yellow Jackets 14-3 in the fourth quarter, Spain Park rallied for nine points before falling 14-12 on a cool night at Bryant-Denny Stadium on the University of Alabama campus.
“We’ve had so many things happen to us this year that our kids always believed, regardless of what situation we were in,” Jaguar coach Shawn Rainey said. “We’ve done it but came up a little short tonight.”
Spain Park had staged impressive comebacks to snatch playoff wins over James Clemens and arch-rival Hoover, but a strong effort from McGill running back Terrell Kennedy meant the third time would not be the charm for the Jags. Kennedy rushed for 203 yards on only 22 carries with two touchdowns.
The Yellow Jackets also controlled the game defensively, holding Spain Park to only 178 yards of total offense and just one touchdown.
McGill took the lead early in the first quarter when Kennedy scored on a four-yard run. Charles Green’s extra point gave the Yellow Jackets a 7-0 lead with 8:21 remaining in the period
Spain Park answered with Crosby Gray’s 37-yard field goal, which cut the lead to 7-3 as the opening quarter ended.
A key defensive play in the second quarter may have clinched the game for McGill. Spain Park had driven to the Yellow Jacket 36-yard line, where it faced a fourth and five situation. Jaguar quarterback Joey Beatty was sacked for a 10-yard loss. On the next play, Kennedy dashed 54 yards for a touchdown, giving McGill a 14-3 advantage.
Spain Park earned its only touchdown with less than six minutes to play when Beatty scored on a one-yard plunge. A two-point conversion failed, and McGill’s lead was cut to 14-9.
“The fact they stopped us when we went for two was obviously a big play when you consider the fact that we lost by two points,” Jaguar center Gray Best said later.
Moments later, the Jags received a golden opportunity when McGill fumbled at its own 13-yard line, which was recovered by Spain Park’s Markell Clark. The Jags couldn’t get in the end zone and had to settle for a 29-yard field goal by Gray. Spain Park had one more shot before the Jackets put an end to it with 1:24 remaining in the game.
Raney’s team finished the season 12-2 as its quest for the school’s first state championship ended in the finals. The 2007 edition of the Jags lost to Prattville 14-0 in the Class 6A championship game.
Wade Streeter led the Spain Park ground attack with 103 yards on 26 carries. Beatty completed 12 of 19 passes for 74 yards.
“Of course it’s disappointing to lose but we’re very proud of what we accomplished,” Beatty said. “In sports, you win some and lose some, and it just wasn’t our night.”
Beatty praised McGill’s defensive unit. “They would probably rank among the best we saw all year,” he said. “Maybe they weren’t the best, but they were one of the best. Their guys were really fast and physical. They reminded me a lot of Hoover and James Clemens.”
Even a week after the loss, Best said the disappointment lingered.
Best didn’t think his team played its finest game.
“McGill was good but we beat ourselves in a lot of ways,” he said. “We had problems getting in the plays and the line didn’t do as well as we could have. And giving up that touchdown in the second quarter really hurt us.”
Nevertheless, Best was proud of the legacy his senior class will leave.
“We’d like to think we put Spain Park football back on the map,” he said. “Hopefully we left the guys behind us something that they can build on.”