Sylacauga upsets Briarwood
by LaVonte Young
SYLACAUGA – Coming into Friday’s game Sylacauga head coach Matt Griffith knew his team would have to play nearly mistake free football to upset Briarwood. The Aggies made costly mistakes, but they also made timely plays which helped them up upset Briarwood Christian, 24-20 on Friday night in front of a spirited crowd at Legion Stadium.

“We’ve had a lot of big wins since we have been here,” Griffith said. “Every year when you make the playoffs there are big wins. Anytime you can beat a county rival it is a big win. When you get a signature win against a team like Briarwood – I am just tickled to death for our kids and I am tickled to death for the community of Sylacauga.

“This community deserves a win like this. I guarantee you it is a great place to live and it is a great place to go to school. Our kids did everything that we asked them to and they did even above that. They deserve all the credit.”

The Aggies were able to jump out on the Lions 14-0 in the first quarter.

After stalling on the first drive of the game, the Aggies turned to their defense to make a play. Briarwood’s first possession of the game started at Sylacauga’s 15 yard line. On the first play of the drive, Briarwood’s George Shamblin was stripped of the football by a Sylacauga defender and the ball was recovered by Chase Landers at the Briarwood 10 yard line.

Sylacauga didn’t waste any time capitalizing off the Lions’ miscue. On second and goal Hunter Johns went back to pass. The junior pumped faked to the right side, but he didn’t have anywhere to throw the football. Johns extended the play by going to his left and sprinting to the left pylon untouched for a nine-yard touchdown. The PAT by Colin Shannon was good to make it 7-0.

The Aggies were able to get on the board again with 1:31 left in the quarter. Sylacauga put together a seven-play, 66-yard drive for a touchdown. TJ Smith capped off the drive with a 30-yard run. The PAT was good to make it 14-0.

The Lions responded with a 61-yard drive for a touchdown with 8:37 left before halftime. Stewart Wilkinson found Samuel Morris for a 10-yard touchdown to make it 14-6.

Shannon gave the Aggies a 17-6 lead with 1:29 remaining in the half with a 23-yard field goal.

Briarwood’s offense gained momentum after the first scoring drive as they were able to drive down to the Aggies 29 yard line right before halftime, but Sylacauga’s defense forced the Lions to turn the ball over on downs.

The Lions finally got things going late in the third quarter as they scored 14 unanswered points.

A Harlan Bailey interception gave the Lions life late in the third quarter. Briarwood took over at the Aggies’ 41 yard line. Wilkinson connected with Brayden Housel for a 41-yard touchdown reception a few plays later to cut the Aggies 17-13 with 1:52 left in the third.

The Aggies gave the football right back to Lions on their first play of the ensuing possession. Floyd was hit hard by a Briarwood defender, which forced the football to come out at the Sylacauga 20 yard line. The Lions capitalized on the Sylacauga mistake right away. Wilkinson connected with Daniel Roberts, who broke an arm tackle and bulled his way into the end zone from nine yards out. The two-point conversion was good to give the Lions a 20-17 lead with 53.7 seconds left in the third quarter.

“You have to give Sylacauga all the credit,” Briarwood head coach Fred Yancey said. “They played really well and they beat us. They came out and played very well. They didn’t make many mistakes. I give them credit for being a well-coached team that played well.”

The Aggies responded with an 80-yard drive to go ahead 24-20 with 9:25 left in the game. The key play of the drive came on pass attempt by St. Johns, which fell incomplete. After the play, the Lions were whistled for a roughing the passer penalty and unsportsmanlike conduct foul. Both infractions were 15-yard penalties, which gave Sylacauga the football at the Lions’ 35 yard line. Johns called his number on the next play for a 10-yard gain.

A few plays later Johns connected with TJ Smith on a fourth down conversion to set up first and goal from the 6. Floyd scored on a run right up the middle for the touchdown. The PAT was good to make it 24-20 with 9:24 left in the game.

“Our kids are doing a great job of handling adversity,” Griffith said. “ I think that goes back to the summer when we made a conscious effort of doing things in the weight room to put our kids in adverse situations and preach to them to rise through it. It is a long season, you never know how kids will react, but tonight they handled it really well.”

After forcing a three and out, the Aggies had a chance to put the game away, but they turned the football over on downs at the Briarwood 28 yard line with 3:29 left in the game.

A pass interference call on the first play of the drive gave the Lions the football at their 44 yard line. The Aggies’ defense stiffened after that play. The Aggies’ defensive linemen were able to tip passes on first and third down. On fourth down, Austin Masters came around right edge and forced Wilkerson to fumble, which was recovered by Sylacauga to seal their first ever win over Briarwood.

Floyd led the Aggies with 31 carries for 115 yards and a touchdown. Johns rushed for 112 yards and touchdown on 20 carries.

© 2012