NORTH SHELBY – During the Class 5A Championship game last season, a blocked extra point at the end of the game is all that stood between the Briarwood Lions and a chance at a state title.
On Friday night, Briarwood head coach Fred Yancey refused to let that happen again.
After the Greenville Tigers (7-4) scored with just over a minute remaining in the game to take a 14-7 lead, the Lions (9-2) answered with a 19-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Paul Barber to Walker May to cut the lead to one.
In typical Yancey style, the Lions refused to play for overtime as Chandler Packard connected with Zeke Walters for the two-point conversion, thus sealing the first-round playoff victory, 15-14.
“After what we went through last year at Legion Field, it’s tough to think about tying and making a mistake,” Yancey said. “We felt like we had something that might work.”
During his post game interview, Yancey was greeted by assistant coach Geoff Walters, who made the call on the conversion pass.
“Just an awesome call,” Yancey said to Walters.
Although the game ended in dramatic fashion, it did not start off that way.
Greenville took the opening possession the length of the field and capitalized on a 9-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan Smith to Alex Phifer.
However, the Tigers had a bad snap on the extra-point kick, which turned out to be costly for Greenville.
The Lions answered the drive by taking the ball the length of the field, but a missed 37-yard field goal by Wilson Whorton kept the score 6-0.
The Lions had another shot at a score in the first quarter as May blocked a punt with the Tigers pinned deep, but Phifer picked up the loose ball and scampered 30 yards to maintain the Greenville possession.
The second quarter saw five punts and each team fail on a fourth-down play, and the third quarter started off with each team failing to convert on fourth-down plays before the Lions got on the board when Barber connected with Ben Bracewell for a 33-yard touchdown pass to put Briarwood up 7-6 following the point-after kick.
The fourth quarter saw each team punt twice before Smith put the Tigers on top with a 9-yard run, followed by a successful two-point conversion pass to Jamontay Pilson.
The lead, however, would not last as Briarwood’s Caleb Castille gave the Lions great field position on the ensuing kickoff with a 40-yard return to set up the pass from Barber to May.
“Paul did a wonderful job of looking away and giving Walker a chance to get down the field,” Yancey said.
The Lions ran the play to May in a jamboree game against Hueytown, but the senior tweaked his ankle and Briarwood never ran the play again until Friday night.
“There’s no losers in tonight’s game,” Greenville head coach Ben Blackmon said. “We fought, and that’s the bottom line. If you can lay it on the line and, at the end of the night look yourself in the mirror and you gave it your best, you’re a winner.”
Offensively for the Lions, Barber was 28-of-42 for 234 yards and two touchdowns.
For Greenville, Smith was 7-of-16 for 48 yards and a touchdown, while rushing 20 times for 90 yards and a touchdown.
The Tigers finished with 180 yards on the ground, while Briarwood finished with 5.