By Rubin E. Grant
Briarwood Christian senior Tyler Waugh has discovered he should expect the unexpected during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the spring, Waugh witnessed his junior baseball season with the Lions cut short when schools closed because of the deadly virus.
This summer, Waugh dealt with the uncertainty surrounding his senior football season because of the lingering pandemic.
And even now, a month into the 2020 season, Waugh wonders whether the Lions will get to finish it.
“I am glad we’re getting to play football with everything that’s going on,” Waugh said. “The end of the season could happen at any time, so I want to take advantage of every minute I’m out on the field. I have learned not to take anything for granted.”
In the Lions’ first four games, Waugh, a linebacker/fullback, has played with a sense of urgency, like any Friday night could be the final game of his high school career.
Waugh recorded 27 total tackles, including 13 unassisted, and scored two touchdowns in the Lions’ season-opening 28-20 victory against Fort Payne.
The next week he rumbled 36 yards for a touchdown on a fourth-and-1 play in the Lions’ 21-14 loss at Spain Park. He also had 11 tackles and a sack.
Then, he scored two touchdowns on short runs, recorded eight tackles, and forced and recovered a fumble in Briarwood’s 20-3 victory against Chelsea.
Friday, Waugh got to rest some as the Lions scored four touchdowns in the first quarter and cruised to a 43-0 victory against Woodlawn.
On the season, Waugh has recorded more than 50 tackles, rushed for more than 80 yards and scored five touchdowns.
“It’s been very impressive the way he’s started the season,” Briarwood coach Matthew Forester said. “He did the same thing last year.
“He’s a great kid and a great person. He plays the game the right way and he’s a tough competitor. He’s a smart, heady player. He understands what to do offensively and defensively. He’s a real leader.”
Waugh also excels in the classroom. He has a 4.73 grade-point average and scored 30 on the ACT.
He has been on the Lions’ varsity since he was a freshman. Last year, he was named second-team All-State in Class 5A as a linebacker, amassing163 tackles, including 96 solo. He also rushed for 13 touchdowns.
“It’s been neat to watch him grow up as a player,” Forester said.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Waugh plays catcher on the Lions’ baseball team, but he doesn’t have a favorite sport.
“Whichever one I am playing at the time is my favorite,” he said. “I just love to compete.”
That’s why he loves being a two-way player on the football team.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “I like defense better because I like to hit people.”
But he enjoys scoring touchdowns from the Lions’ “Tank” formation when they put bulky players in the backfield in short-yardage and goal-line situations. Instead of lining up in the shotgun, Waugh takes a direct snap from center and plows ahead.
“I like the changeup, going from defense to offense,” he said. “It’s fun to just take the ball and run.”
After reaching the Class 5A semifinals in 2019, the Lions have moved up to Class 6A this season. They are in Region 5, which includes Mountain Brook, which dropped down from Class 7A, and Homewood.
The Lions (3-1) have won their first two region games and play host to Huffman (3-1, 1-1) Friday night in another region game.
“I think we’ve got the talent to compete in 6A,” Waugh said. “It’s a tough region, especially with Mountain Brook and Homewood. They’re both good, physical football teams.
“We’ve got a ways to go, so we’ll see what happens.”