The #2 Briarwood Christian Lions travel to #3 Mountain Brook to face the Spartans in a huge Class 6A Region 5 game at Spartan Stadium on Thursday night. The winner will have a big advantage in winning the region title and will stay undefeated in the region.
The only loss between the two teams was Mountain Brook losing to 7A giant Thompson on week five and the Spartans had the week off to see what they can improve on as a team. "By playing Thompson, it exposed some areas a little quicker," said Spartans head coach Chris Yeager. "I have seen consistent growth every week in our team. Our players are improving their game and their skills."
Briarwood Christian (7-0, 4-0) has wins over region foes Chelsea (42-35), Woodlawn (42-21), Huffman (42-14) and Shades Valley.(28-7). The offense has been very good averaging almost 40 points per game. The Lions offense has been pretty balanced so far this season.
At quarterback, the Lions have one of the best in the state. Christopher Vizzina is truly a star in the making and has a lot of college choices liking what they see in him. Vizzina didn't start playing quarterback until his freshman season in high school. "Christopher is a big time competitor," said Lions head coach Matthew Forester. "He wants to compete and wants to get better. So whether it is out here in the middle of the spring pushing a sled or working on his technique and fundamentals, to me the competitive spirit he has is really evident in the Chelsea game of just refusing to give up to keep his head down and work hard even when the odds are not in our favor."
The 2023 QB recent offers include Auburn, Florida and Penn State. For the season, Vizzina has completed 79-of-102 passing for 1,315 yards with 15 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Another area to watch out for is his ability to run the football, add in 443 yards on 72 carries for a 6.2 yard average and 11 touchdowns on the season. Incredible!
The receiving core has been coming along nicely in the 2021 season. Seniors Ethan Anderson, Luke Gilbert, and Jay Butler have improved since the opening game. "Each receiver had big games so far for us, all three are playing for the first time," said Forester. "These guys have stepped up their senior year and have played well for us. I am incredible proud of them. We knew they had talent but when the lights turn on you never know. They have stepped up and having an amazing year." Other players that see playing time are Jackson Barnes, Sawyer Russell and Peyton Fox.
The Lions running game have some good ones in Luke Reebals, Riley Margene, Cooper Higgins and Colton Williams. "What I love about Luke is his vision," added Forester. "He is very explosive. He can go from zero to 60 really fast. He is shifty and does a great job of cutting back on a play." For the season, Reebals has 558 yards on 79 carries for a 7.1 yard per carry average with 10 touchdowns. Reebals can catch the ball out of the backfield as he has 16 receptions for 187 yards and two touchdowns on the season. Against Woodlawn, Higgins had 113 all-purpose yards in the game.
The offensive line has two experienced players. Tackle Charlie Heidepriem and center Alex Moore have seen it all and played in this big game last season. With them are Luke Schultz, Rich Connell, Harrison Clemmer, Andy Foust, Alex Hudson and Michael Tedesco.
The defense will be the key to the game Friday night. The Lions defense has given up almost three touchdowns per game and will need to play big against the Spartans offense. "We have been gritty on defense. We haven't done everything perfect, but we have a lot of new faces especially at linebacker," said Forester. "They are continuing to improve and that is the goal. We knew we were young at the beginning of the season, we want to be peaking at the end. Come playoffs we want to play at an incredible high level. We are on goal on where we should be right now. Were playing tough, physical football."
Defensive lineman Miller Stubblefield is very good on the defensive front. "Miller is outstanding. Another kid that started as a sophomore," said Forester. "He has started over 30 high school football games. Seen it all. Playing like a true veteran. He has been patient with the younger guys. Modeling what a great football player should be like." The defensive line has Luke Dickinson, Clay Dorrill, Holden Patterson, Matthew King and Andrew Kassouf.
Linebackers Grant Bruce, Grant Dickenson, Hayden Stubbs and Hardy Thompson will need to make plays on the football and be sure with their tackles in this game. Seth Alford who does a great job at safety calling the defensive calls. A very good communicator with the defense. Reece Garner, Nick Frost and Peyton Steed get playing time in the secondary.
Mountain Brook (5-1, 3-0) is scoring around 33 points per game this season. The Spartans had a lot of seniors on the field in 2020 and are looking for some younger players to step in this season and they have done a good job for the Spartans.
One of those inexperienced guys to start the season was quarterback John Colvin. The junior QB has six games under his belt this season. "John is a very good processor," said Yeager. "He makes good decisions. I've seen his game grow. He is a sneaky athlete. When he makes a good play, he puts it behind him, when he makes a bad play, he puts it behind him. He looks forward to the next play. He is developing into a good player for us." For the season, Colvin has completed 43-of-71 passing for 813 yards with 13 touchdowns and four interceptions.
At receiver, the Spartans have some good ones. Jackson Beatty, Jake Thompson, Michael Lorino and Sims Brown have played well so far. Beatty has 17 receptions for 454 yards and six touchdowns. Thompson has 14 receptions for 216 yards and five touchdowns on the season.
The running game has been good. Junior Will Waldrop and sophomore Cole Gamble split the carries for the Spartans. "Will has good speed," said Yeager. "He is the purest runner. Cole can make people miss. He has a physical side to his running style. Cole can go side to side and Will has the speed to go downhill." For the season, Waldrop has 254 yards on 56 carries and a touchdown and Gamble has 281 yards on 48 carries and two touchdowns.
The offensive line is very athletic with not much size but one of the Spartans most athletic group of players. Four of the five are two sport athletes. Wilder Hines is a soccer player, Davis Peterson is a catcher on the baseball team, Mac Smith is the first baseman on the baseball team and William Courtenay is a very good wrestler. The last lineman Nelson Crawford is a pure football player. A very smart group that has a lot of versatility to their blocking schemes. "I've never had four mult-sport athletes playing together on one team," said Yeager. "They need to be learning the game. If you can get these guys to coach the younger players, that just gives you a leg up with the younger players and this group is going that. I love that one teaches and two learn."
The Spartans defense is very good only giving up 11 points per game. "They have done a great job of playing together," added Yeager. "I can tell in the spring training this was going to be a good year because this group is relentless. John McMillan is such a playmaker for us. He brings energy around him and people just feed off of it." The other two linebackers of Trent Wright and Quinn Thomas have been huge for the Spartans defense. Also, Vaughn Frost will get some playing time for Mountain Brook.
The defensive line of Tompkins Richardson, Gray Doster and Ethan Wint are very good. The secondary had to plug in a new group this year. Mac McCowan, Mac Palmer, Elliott Bloomston, William McIlvaine, Jones Beavers and Braxton Dean all get playing time. Beavers and McCowan are the quarterbacks of the defense and are playing well so far this season.
Reed Harradine handles the kicking duties for the Spartans.