By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News
GARDENDALE — A late comeback effort by Gardendale came up just short, as a pass on a two-point conversion attempt with 24 seconds remaining left Briarwood Christian with a 24-22 upset win Friday.
The deciding play came just after Rocket quarterback Hunter Crook connected with Austin Hicks on a 10-yard touchdown pass, which brought the home team within two points of a tie score. But Crook’s pass attempt for the game-tying conversion fell incomplete.
Fullback Victor Jerald put the Lions on the scoreboard first with a 1-yard scoring dive late in the first quarter, and added the two-point conversion. Gardendale answered midway through the second period when Dylan Finkley broke loose for a 75-yard touchdown run, but Briarwood still led 8-7 at halftime.
The Lions scored again when sophomore quarterback Walker Lott threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Schaper, and then hit Luke Cunningham on the two-point conversion toss.
Gardendale responded again with the Crook-Hicks combo for four yards. The point-after kick was blocked.
Seth Reburn tied the game with a 33-yard field goal with 6:40 left, but Lott put the Lions ahead again on a short scoring run with 3:27 remaining, and Jerald hit Schaper on a wildcat-formation two-point conversion that proved to be the difference in the final score.
Jerald led all rushers with 102 yards on 27 carries for Briarwood (3-2), and Lott ran 15 times for 61 yards. Juan Jackson ran 14 times for 61 yards for the Rockets (3-2). Crook was 12-for-18 in passing for 109 yards for Gardendale, while Lott was 13-for-16 with two interceptions and 134 yards for the Lions.
Keenan Fikes had eight solo tackles plus two assists, freshman Andrew Freeman had seven solos and three assists, and Gabe Hill tallied six solos and three assists. Hill and Freeman each recovered a Briarwood fumble, while Jackson had two interceptions.
Gardendale returns to region play next week, as they play Huffman at Lawson Field in Irondale.
De Allen contributed to this report.