Birmingham, Ala.--In a game that featured top prospects on both sides, it was St. Paul's combination of Mark Barron and Ivan Matchett that proved to be the winning duo on Friday night as they combined for 199 yards rushing on 33 carries to lead the Saints to a 14-13 victory over Briarwood at Legion Field. Despite domination from start to finish, it took yet another wacky special teams play to seal the deal for the Saints with just seconds remaining in the contest.
Trailing 14-0, Briarwood got the offense rolling on the opening drive of the second half. Taking the ball over at their own 33-yard line, the Lions immediately went to work as two Jonathan Sillers runs for 18 and 14 yards respectively with a 12-yard Trotter run thrown in put Briarwood down to the Lion 10-yard line. From there the duo combined for the score as Trotter's pass to Sillers from the six put the Lions in the endzone for the first time.
The two defenses then became the story as neither team scored the rest of the third period to set up a tense fourth quarter at Legion Field. Facing a fourth and two near midfield with just under 10 minutes left in the game, Briarwood punted out of the shotgun formation and put the ball inside the St. Paul's five yard line.
Getting one first down, the Saints moved the ball out to the 20-yard line before they were forced to punt. A 38-yard punt left Briarwood starting its next drive from the 42-yard line with 7:02 left in the contest.
Barrett Trotter was harrassed all night by St. Paul's defense.
A first down strike from Trotter to Sillers gained seven yards before two more totes from the back gained enough yardage for the first down with just 5:50 left. Forcing a throw down the sidelines, Trotter's first down pass was picked by Barron to end the Briarwood threat.
The Lions would get one more shot though as they held St. Paul's and forced a punt. Breaking though the protection, Walker May blocked the punt and Briarwood recovered at the 22-yard line with just under three minutes left in the game. It would appear to be for nothing though as Trotter's third interception of the contest on a sliding grab by Irvin Rentz at the two-yard line brought Briarwood's hopes for a perfect season to a close, or so they thought.
Forcing another punt by the Saints with just 16 seconds left in the game, Briarwood's Jake Moorer broke through and blocked the punt. Finishing what he started on the last punt, May picked it up and ran in for the touchdown to make it 14-13. Coming on the for the extra point, Matthew Gordon's attempt was blocked by Joshua Lancaster to bring an end to a thrilling finish in the game of the Super Six through two days.
Struggling against a more athletic St. Paul's team that chased him out of pocket all night and kept a blanket on his receivers, Trotter completed just 13-27 passes for 126 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. He added 47 rushing yards on 11 carries while teammate Sillers also ran for 47.
"This is not the way I planned it or all of the other guys wanted it to be," Trotter says. "That's just the way it happens sometimes. It has been a lot of fun playing for Coach (Fred) Yancey and all of these guys at Briarwood. I couldn't ask for anything better."
Despite ending on a rough note, Yancey notes that it was a credit to Trotter and the Saints' defense because both showed up to play and on this night it was St. Paul's that came up with the win.
"I'll give them a lot of credit for their coverage," Yancey says. "Their secondary guys were the best we've seen all year by far. They didn't rush many, but they put a lot of pressure on us. Barrett did a super job of buying time and giving us a chance to have plays just with his great feet, but their athleticism on defense was real hard to overcome."
The first half was dominated by St Paul's as the Matchett and Barron combination kept the Briarwood defense off balance. The two rushed for a total of 129 yards on just 17 carries as the Saints raced out to a 14-0 advantage in the first 24 minutes. The first touchdown came with 7:57 left in the second quarter off a Trotter interception. A deflected pass bounced into the hands of Daniel Martin, who raced 29 yards for the score.
St Paul's then caught Briarwood off guard with an onside kick to immediately get the ball back in the hands of A.J. McCarron and company. The Saints then went on a 47-yard march that took 11 plays and ate up 5:13 off the clock. Matchett handled the final one yard to give the Mobile school a 14-0 lead with just under three minutes remaining in the half.
Trotter and the Lions got the ball back and appeared to be driving for a score of their own as a deep ball and great catch by Zeke Walters for 41 yards put Briarwood in business inside the St. Paul's 10-yard line with less than 30 seconds left in the half. On second down a short pass with no timeouts left forced Trotter to down the ball on third down with just five seconds left in the half. Instead of kicking the field goal, Briarwood rolled the dice and came up empty as an option play failed to score and left the lead at 14 for the Saints. They would eventually hold on to get a the victory and the first state championship in school history.