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The Hartselle Tigers take the field in a game earlier this season. Special to the Enquirer/Mariann Parker

Playoff Preview: Hartselle faces Briarwood Christian

The Hartselle Tigers will travel to Birmingham Friday night for a match-up against the Briarwood Christian Lions to open the 6A playoffs.  

The Tigers and Lions are familiar with one another, as they have played the previous two seasons. Hartselle won 14-7 in overtime in 2018, and Briarwood won 21-10 this past season. 

The teams have met a total of four times, with the series tied at 2-2. The previous two games came in 2010, with the Lions winning 24-21 in the 5A semifinals, and 2011, with the Tigers winning 16-14 in the 5A semifinals.  

The Tigers (7-3) finished the regular season in third place in Region 8 behind Athens and Cullman, and they are on a three-game winning streak entering the playoffs. The Lions (7-2) finished runner-up in Region 5 to Mountain Brook. They enter the playoffs on a two-game winning streak. 

Hartselle is averaging 33.2 points per game on offense while giving up 14 points on defense. In their three-game winning streak, the Tigers are averaging 44 points per game on offense while allowing 7.3 defensively. 

Briarwood Christian, on the other hand, is averaging 25 points per game on offense while allowing 9.9 points defensively. 

The Tigers are led by quarterbacks Parker Sawyer and JT Blackwood and receiver Izayah Fletcher. The Lions are led by sophomore quarterback Christopher Vizzina and junior running back Luke Reebals. 

For Hartselle, Sawyer has passed for 873 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 294 yards and five scores. He also has four receptions for 103 yards and two touchdowns. Blackwood has passed for 951 yards and 11 touchdowns, and Fletcher has 44 receptions for 762 yards and seven touchdowns. 

For Briarwood, Vizzina has passed for 1,625 yards and 13 touchdowns while throwing eight interceptions. Reebals leads the team in rushing with 786 yards and seven touchdowns, despite missing two games to open the season. 

The Tigers are coached by Bryan Moore, who is in his first year at Hartselle. He has a career record of 55-15 in six years as a head coach. 

Briarwood is a tradition-rich program that is extremely well-coached,” said Moore. “They are disciplined and don’t beat themselves. We will have to play well to have a chance to win.” 

The Lions are coached by Matthew Forester, who is in his second year at Briarwood Christian. He has a 19-4 record as a head coach. 

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