With one leap, Xavier Stewart on Friday night catapulted Wenonah into next week’s Super 7 – one victory away from the school’s first-ever football state championship.
Stewart intercepted a pass with 1:52 remaining to seal a 14-8 win against Briarwood Christian in the Class 5A state semifinals, igniting a celebration which is sure to encompass all of Southwest Birmingham. After all, Wenonah – along with Ramsay in Class 6A – are the first football programs in Birmingham City Schools to reach a football state championship game since now-defunct West End in 1993.
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The school’s former boundaries include Parker and Wenonah. Now it’s up to Stewart, quarterback Carlos Rogers, running back Telvin Miller, linebacker Giovanni Williams and so many others to earn prep football mortality.
The 5A title game will be played next Thursday at 7 p.m. against Beauregard at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn.
Stewart’s play decided a game in which both teams dominated in different ways.
Wenonah’s defense, a problem all season for opposing offenses, continued its streak of hard hitting, frustrating Briarwood Christian quarterback William Gray and his running offense.
Meanwhile, Briarwood Christian dominated on special teams, with JR Tran Reno scoring on a 94-yard kickoff return to start the second half, his special teams also blocking a punt and in the game’s final minutes, collecting a safety which almost become a touchdown – perhaps a game-winning score.
In the end, Wenonah accomplished just enough on offense to win. The Dragons took advantage of a missed field goal in the second quarter, scoring in just two plays, capped by Miller’s 51-yard TD run.
After Reno’s score on kickoff return, Rogers led a second scoring drive, capped by his 30-yard score with 9:57 left.
Briarwood Christian blocked a punt with 2:32 left, scoring two points as the football traveled out of the end zone, nearly recovered in time for six.
After the safety, Briarwood received possession on a Wenonah punt, but Stewart stepped in to make the biggest play thus far of his high school career.
— Star of the game: Give it to the freshman. Stewart’s play sealed a close semifinal contest.
— Key sequence: Briarwood Christian missed a field goal inside 30 yards and two plays later, watched Wenonah score the game’s first touchdown.
— By The Numbers: 5, previous state championship for Briarwood Christian (1977, 19833, 1998-99, 2003). … 0, state titles for Wenonah. … 7, times this season Wenonah has held opponents to single-digit scoring. … 2, interceptions for Wenonah’s defense against Briarwood Christian.
— Coachspeak: “It’s an unbelievable experience right now. It’s unbelievable. It’s something I’ve always wanted to share with these kids, this community.” – Wenonah coach Ronald Cheatham
“One of the punts we blocked; I wish we could have scooped it and scored right there. The deal at the end which ended up being a safety: I understand it was about one inch from being a touchdown. So that’s how close it is between success and failure in a big game.” — Briarwood Christian coach Fred Yancey
— They Said It …: “I read the quarterback’s eyes, I backpeddled… I saw the ball and went up (in the air). I knew the ball was mine.” – Wenonah safety Xavier Stewart
“We were grinding for each other. It’s a family out there.” – Wenonah running back Telvin Miller
— Next week: Wenonah (11-2) will play in the 5A title game Thursday night against Beauregard. Briarwood Christian’s season ends at 12-2. Complete article