By Lee Davis
Although Vestavia Hills entered the Class 6A football playoffs with a region championship and an 8-2 record, there were some legitimate doubts about the Rebels as they hosted Decatur last Friday.
In recent weeks, the Vestavia express had slowed just a bit, most notably on Oct. 25 when the Rebels were stunned 10-7 by a hungry Mountain Brook team. Vestavia rebounded with a season-closing win over Florence, but the echoes of the loss to the Spartans still reverberated.
Any doubts about the Rebels’ ability to make a strong run for a state championship ended on a cold night at Thompson Reynolds Stadium, as Vestavia took charge early and routed the Red Raiders 38-14.
The hosts set the tone early, when Rebel cornerback Brooks Sexton intercepted a Decatur pass. Five plays later, Jordan Johnson scored on a 16-yard run, and Vestavia led 7-0 with 8:11 remaining in the opening period.
A few minutes later, Wesley Hatchett added a 26-yard field goal, and the Rebels boosted their lead to 10-0 as the quarter ended.
Vestavia may have effectively sealed the verdict in the final minute of the first half. Sexton intercepted another pass and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown. Hatchett’s kick raised the margin to 17-0.
The Rebel onslaught continued in the third quarter. Johnson’s second touchdown run, this time from one yard out, increased Vestavia’s lead 24-0 with 8:11 left in the period.
Decatur battled back for a touchdown, but the Rebels matched it within three minutes. Quarterback Landon Crowder’s five-yard run put Vestavia ahead 31-7.
Carter Jacobs ended Vestavia’s scoring with a one-yard touchdown dive with 6:57 remaining in the game.
The real highlight of the night was the play of the Rebel defense. Decatur managed only five first downs and 142 yards of total offense and suffered three turnovers.
Vestavia hosts Bessemer City in the Class 6A playoffs’ second round.
Top-ranked Hoover rolled to an easy 41-7 rout of Huntsville. Bradrick Shaw paced the Buccaneer running attack with 124 yards on 16 carries. Hoover’s defense allowed the visitors into Buc territory only twice in the game.
The Bucs, now 11-0 for the season, will host Shades Valley in the next round of the playoffs.
Florence ended Mountain Brook’s season with a 33-21 upset. Interceptions early in the game and later were costly for the Spartans, who battled back from an early 13-0 deficit.
The loss snapped a seven-game winning streak for Mountain Brook, which finished the year 7-4.
In the Class 5A playoffs, Homewood overwhelmed Russell County 42-7. Walter Rutledge rushed for 100 yards on 17 carries and scored two touchdowns. Quarterback Carson Griffis passed for 69 yards.
The Patriots, now 9-2 for the year, host Saraland in the playoffs’ second round.
Briarwood rolled to an easy 32-15 win over Eufaula. Quarterback Walker Lott completed 14 of 30 passes for 90 yards and rushed for 113 yards on 20 carries. Victor Gerald aided the cause with 112 yards on 22 carries.
The Lions, now 9-2 for the year, visit Jackson in round two of the Class 5A playoffs.