By Lee Davis
If you were a Vestavia Hills or Mountain Brook football fan, it was safe to circle Oct. 26 in ink on the kitchen calendar. From the moment Class 6A’s Region 6 was created out of the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s reclassification, it was almost preordained that the Rebels and Spartans would play for the league’s championship.
And that’s not said as a slap at Carver, Woodlawn, Huffman and the other teams that populate the new region. Based on recent tradition, there was little doubt from the first whistle in August that the top teams would be Vestavia and Mountain Brook.
There was a legitimate question, however, about which of the two frontrunners was the best. The Spartans sprinted through eight games without a serious challenge. Vestavia lost 35-15 to top-ranked Hoover Sept. 28 but had little trouble defeating seven other foes.
On paper, at least, there seemed to be little difference between the pair.
The Rebels showed the difference Friday night, surprising almost everyone except themselves by taking a decisive 34-6 victory over their longtime rival at Thompson Reynolds Stadium.
“They won the line of scrimmage,” said a gracious Mountain Brook coach Chris Yeager at the end. “When you win the line of scrimmage, you win the football game.”
Evidence of the winners’ success on the line of scrimmage was the 288 yards they earned on the ground. Mountain Brook gained only three yards rushing in the first half. The relentless Rebel attack burned a Spartan defense that had until then given up an average of only eight points a game.
The fruits of victory were sweet for Coach Buddy Anderson’s men. The Rebels ran their record to 8-1 for the season and clinched the Region 6 crown with a 7-0 worksheet.
Mountain Brook fell to 8-1 overall and 7-1 and second place in league competition.
Vestavia assumed the initiative from the very beginning, moving to the Spartans’ 10-yard line early in the game. Colin Harper’s 27-yard field goal gave the hosts a 3-0 lead with 8:21 left in the first period.
Harper added his second field goal in the opening moments of the second quarter – this time from 42 yards out – and the Rebels’ margin went to 6-0.
Quarterback Spencer Towns earned the night’s first touchdown, scoring from the Mountain Brook one-yard line. Harper’s conversion stretched the margin to 13-0 with 2:44 remaining in the opening half.
Vestavia’s defense broke the game open midway through the third quarter. Senior defensive back Marcus Ward intercepted a Spartan pass and dashed 27 yards for a touchdown. Harper’s second extra point gave the Rebels a commanding 20-0 advantage.
“It was all about preparation,” said a tired but elated Ward afterward. “I reached the corner, caught the ball and ran toward home.” Ward also made 10 tackles for Vestavia.
With Mountain Brook clearly on the ropes, Vestavia worked to finish the job. Rebel running back Stuart Jacobs ran 87 yards for a touchdown to raise the score to 27-0 with 3:22 on the clock in the third stanza.
Stewart would finish with 153 yards rushing and contribute an interception while playing defense.
“We came out hungry and really concentrated in practice this week,” he said. “We knew tonight would be a test to see what our potential for the playoffs might be.”
The answer to that test was obvious, but Vestavia wasn’t quite finished. Towns scored his second touchdown on a one-yard dive to raise the Rebels’ edge to 34-0 early in the final period.
Mountain Brook earned a consolation touchdown in the game’s final minutes. Buddy Pell’s three-yard score came with 1:39 left to play.
Gene Bromberg paced the Spartan offense by rushing for 115 yards on 27 carries, but much of that yardage came after the outcome had been decided.
With only one game remaining in the regular season, Vestavia has established itself as one of a handful of teams which might have a legitimate shot at the state Class 6A championship. Of course the Rebels would have to upset Hoover somewhere along the way, but the Vestavia team that handled Mountain Brook would have a shot against almost anybody.
And Rebel fans can put that down in ink, too.