This is the last year for Carver Montgomery in the 5A classification. The next two years they will move to Class 6A and join Prattville in region four.
The Lions took their run for the 2007 championship a step further and made it to finals against St. Paul's only to lose a heartbreaker 14-13.
Now both teams have some redemption in mind in the 2009 season.
While Carver has only lost once by a 28-24 margin to region foe Greenville (11-0), the Lions have lost three games this season, but all three teams belong to class 6A. All three teams made it to the playoffs. The opponents were No. 1 seed Vestavia and No. 3 seed Spain Park both from the tough region six. The last loss came against No. 2 seed Florence. Florence and Spain Park are still fighting for a spot in the championship game in Tuscaloosa.
Yratings.com gives Carver Montgomery the edge in this game, but Briarwood Christian far and away plays a tougher schedule with seven of their 10 opponents making the playoffs.
Briarwood Christian has another possible advantage this year. They will play in front of the home crowd.
Coach Fred Yancey has a 234-80-1 record as a head coach while Alphonso Pogue 38-19 looks to head towards a great career himself.
Coach Yancey compared the matchup from last year to this year.
"To be honest, last year they had a terrific team, and they beat us 21-13," Yancey replied. We played them about as well as we could, but they were just the better team. They had a lot of terrific players, and this year they have many of those same players back. They are 10-1, and we just have to hope that we have improved from a year ago."
Briarwood Christian faced a Chilton County team last week that was on the last leg of a brutal three-game stretch. A 28-21 loss to 5A Greenville and another hard fought 32-26 loss to 4A Bibb County. Those two teams have a combined record of 22-0. Briarwood Christian made the Tigers 0-3 in that stretch with a 39-14 first round decision.
"That was a good game to begin the tournament," Yancey said. "We were just a better team and able to do some things to them that will be much more difficult to do this week. The athletes at Carver are outstanding. They are a much different team. There is a lot of difference between playing a 10-1 team than a 5-5 team."
Justin Shade, the 5-9 225 pound linebacker and son of Alabama and NFL veteran Sam Shade, had a tremendous game last week against the Tigers with 16 tackles, four for a loss and a fumble recovery.
"Justin is an excellent player," Yancey said. "He has a good week every week. We must have him play well (this week), if we are going to compete with Carver."
"Justin has several offers. I don't think anything has changed with his offers. He has an offer from the Air Force Academy, VMI, The Citadel, so he has the military schools. In addition to that he has Louisiana Tech, Arkansas State and Samford. So he's got some real nice offers to consider."
Father and Coach Sam Shade is the defensive backs coach at Samford.
Paul Barber is Briarwood's second year starting quarterback. Last week against Chilton County the senior was nearly perfect completing 11-of-13 pass attempts for 280 yards.
"He's a good quarterback," Yancey said. "He's had a great year for us. He is a nice run threat, a good passer, and a real good punter. He is truly a triple threat guy. He's had a good week of practice. He's really had a good season for us."
Briarwood Christian also has Zeke Walters (6-4, 235), who scored a touchdown on offense last week, plays at linebacker. The senior has pledged to Southern Mississippi for his collegiate play. His brother Bo Walters plays for the Bulldogs of Mississippi State, but is currently injured.
"Zeke is really making his mark for us this year," Yancey said. "He's doing a great job. We have a little goal line package where he goes in and just quarterback-sneaks the ball. He is a big strong kid who handled the football a lot in the past. That's the reason for that play, but he's making his mark as an outstanding linebacker for us. In fact our defense is pretty good. They are giving up less than 10 points a game, and it revolves around Justin Shade and Zeke Walters as our linebackers. They have to pave the way for us to have a chance."
Talk turned to some of the underclassmen for the Lions.
"We have a good bunch of young players," Yancey said. "Cooper Harrington (6-0, 175) is a junior and an outstanding player. He really can play both sides of the ball. Last year, he played defensive back for us. This year he is a halfback. Next year we're not sure where he'll play, but he's a real good player for us."
"Wilson Whorton is an outstanding junior kicker. He puts most kickoffs in the end zone. He is a good field goal kicker and a nice punter. Last week he averaged 45 yards a punt. That was his best game, and he's real capable of being a nice place kicker and punter duo."
Whorton booted a 73-yard punt against 6A Vestavia in the first game of the season.
Kickoff 7:00 PM Lions Pride Stadium, Birmingham, Ala.