“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, ESV)
WILL WE EVEN PLAY?
This was the question hanging over the 2020 Briarwood Lions football season. The COVID-19 pandemic had affected everyone and everything. The total shut down that came in the spring had given way to gradual reopening in the summer. Even summer workouts were far from normal with strict COVID protocols and no 7 on 7 or camps. There was an air of uncertainty and apprehension over everything in June & July – high school football programs included. More than one Briarwood coach stated to me that there were several points along the way that they did not think we would play at all, but they didn’t say that to the players. More than one player has said to me “The coaches didn’t say we weren’t going to get to play, but we knew.”
There was a also a degree of guilt when talking about playing football. After all, people were dying, many others were sick, healthcare workers were overwhelmed, 30 million people had lost jobs in America alone, the daily lives of everyone had been disrupted. No one knew if kids were going back to school in the Fall. There was no end in sight. Why was football season even on my radar at all? One simple reason….
I have a SENIOR.
Daniel Corbin had waited his entire life to be out there on Friday nights playing high school football. He had started every game of his junior year – a magical season that you can read about here… https://gregcorbin.com/2020/01/26/a-season-for-the-ages-the-2019-briarwood-lions-football-team/
When I wrote those words, I had no idea that a microscopic virus was already circling the globe and would wreck havoc on everything. The thought of Daniel and his teammates not being able to have a senior season was difficult to even think about. Finally, the word came down from the Alabama High School Athletic Association: football season would start as scheduled on August 21st. It was welcome news, but it was blunted by reality: maybe we can get in a couple of games before it gets shut down again. There was little to no optimism that we would make it through an entire season. However, we did, and what a season it turned out to be!
THE 2020 BRIARWOOD LIONS SEASON
In addition to the myriad “COVID questions” surrounding the season, the Lions entered the 2020 season with a host of question marks – the biggest regarding the move up to 6A Region 5. After a trip to the 5A semifinals the previous season, the Lions would move up a class and move into one of the toughest regions in 6A along with Mountain Brook (who moved down from 7A), always tough Homewood and Shades Valley, constant rival Chelsea, Huffman, and Woodlawn. How would the Lions replace a great senior class off last year’s team? Would new playmakers step up? Could we avoid injuries in key places where we were obviously thin? As we drove up I-59 to Fort Payne on August 21st, these questions were on the minds of many Lions supporters.
BRIARWOOD 28 FORT PAYNE 20 The Lions blitzed the Wildcats early and held off a late Fort Payne rally. A solid start against a quality opponent that gave everyone some confidence and optimism.
SPAIN PARK 21 BRIARWOOD 14 The Lions couldn’t hold on after leading 14-0 at the half. This game was a confidence booster as everyone felt we should have beaten a solid 7A foe.
BRIARWOOD 43 WOODLAWN 0 Due to the week to week uncertainty of playing thanks to COVID-19, senior night was moved to the first home game. The highlight was the pre-game ceremony with players from both teams side by side holding American flags – on September 11.
BRIARWOOD 28 HUFFMAN 16 The Lions put together one of their best overall games of the season to defeat the uber talented Huffman Vikings.
BRIARWOOD forfeit win over MORTIMER JORDAN. The Blue Devils had to forfeit due to COVID-19.
BRIARWOOD 42 SHADES VALLEY 19 In what would become a pattern in the second half of the season, the Lions started slowly and fell behind before exploding. Three Briarwood touchdowns in :90 seconds of game clock time sealed the Mounties’ fate on this night. This game also clinched a playoff spot for the 28th consecutive season.
MOUNTAIN BROOK 17 BRIARWOOD 7 The Lions played the best team they had faced (to this point of the season) and did not play their best game. In typical 2020 fashion, the game was moved to Thursday night due to a hurricane coming through the state! This loss cost the Lions a region championship.
BRIARWOOD 28 HOMEWOOD 6 The Lions absolutely dominated the second half in every phase of the game. This win enabled the Lions to claim the second seed in the region and host a first round playoff game.
BRIARWOOD 42 CORNER 7 A huge Corner team was no match for Briarwood speed and toughness as the Lions cruised to a big homecoming win. In typical 2020 fashion, due to ANOTHER hurricane coming through the state earlier in the week and mass power outages, the stadium lights were only restored about an hour before game time!
BRIARWOOD 31 HARTSELLE 17 (1st Round Playoffs) The Lions were down 14-3 after a lackluster first half. The Briarwood seniors were not going out in that fashion and spearheaded what can only be described as a second half obliteration and dominance of a good, solid team. Tyler Waugh had a game for the ages in what proved to be the Lions last home game.
THE 2020 SEASON ENDS
OXFORD 35 BRIARWOOD 14 The Lions did not fare well against the defending 6A State Champions who had their sights clearly set on a repeat. It was a disappointing way to end, but it cannot take away from the season as a whole.
A 9-3 season in class 6A and a global pandemic is a TERRIFIC season by any measure.
“THANK YOU” ISN’T ENOUGH
I want to express my deep, heartfelt appreciation to ALL of the Briarwood coaches, staff, players, and football families who absolutely went above and beyond the call of duty in order to help this 2020 season happen. As the parent of a senior, you will always have my gratitude for what you did in making this season happen.
I also want to express my thanks and appreciation to the Briarwood football family. Daniel got the opportunity to play at one of the state’s top football programs for one of the greatest to ever do it (retired Coach Fred Yancey) one of the most respected “up and coming” coaches in the state (current Coach Matthew Forester). Daniel was in uniform at Bryant Denny Stadium for the 2017 5A State Championship Game. Daniel started every game in the 2019 playoff run. He has been part of some of the greatest games in Briarwood history and some of the most exciting high school football games in recent memory i.e. the 2017 St. Clair County game & the 2019 Ramsay game. It was an honor and privilege for Daniel to be part of Briarwood football. He will carry the memories for the rest of his life.
I also want to thank the boys Daniel played with. If you look at that top photo of the senior football players, Daniel went to battle with those guys for seven straight seasons. Having moved here when Daniel was in sixth grade, I still remember taking him to his first practice with the Cahaba Valley Lions and Daniel not knowing a soul. Those coaches and those boys accepted Daniel from day one – even though most of them had been together since kindergarten. As a dad, I will always be grateful for that fact. Beginning with their 7th grade year, this group moved up and began to officially play for the school. They were winners – compiling a 63-12 record in their Briarwood football career. Most of all, they were the greatest young men. Absolutely could not have asked for a better group of young men for my son to grow up with and go to battle with on the field. “THANK YOU” truly isn’t enough.
A SEASON OF LIFE ENDS & ANOTHER BEGINS
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1–8, ESV)
As we drove home from the playoff game at Oxford, I could not get this scripture off my mind. The end of the 2020 football season marks the end of a season of life for the Corbin family. You see, Becky and I have been watching one of our sons play ball every single year since 2003. We have braved the elements at baseball parks, traveled to basketball gyms all over the southeast, and parked at dozens of football stadiums because one of our sons was playing. When one season ended, we looked forward to the next season. There was always a next season – until now. The 2020 football season ended a season in the life of our family. It has a been a season filled with great joy and excitement. We have loved every single minute of it all. No one has enjoyed watching their boys play more than Greg & Becky Corbin. Never again will I wake up on Friday morning, lean over to Becky and say “It’s GAME DAY!!!” Here we are greeting Daniel after his last home game…
It’s also the end of a season and the beginning of a new season in Daniel’s life. Now final college decisions are being made and the countdown to high school graduation begins in earnest. Daniel’s football and high school sports career is over, but he has a good head on his shoulders and knows that a new season of his life looms with its own joys and opportunities. Here are Daniel’s own words in a social media post summing up his Briarwood football career…
“Wouldn’t change a thing. Thankful for all the lessons learned and the memories made. Love all my brothers.”
That pretty much says it all. The following pictures say a lot about Daniel. You may have already noticed that in some pictures he is #32 and in others he is #50. The reason is that early in this season, the team needed Daniel to step in and play offensive line for a few games. That necessitated a number change according to the rules. Daniel was a good senior soldier during those weeks – doing his very best, not complaining, and exhausting himself playing on both sides of the ball. He was all about the team and all about helping the team win. Thankfully, during the second half of the season, things were more settled on the offensive line – enabling Daniel to move back exclusively to defense and his beloved #32. Through it all, he was a leader and a warrior in every sense of the word.
Certainly, there may have been more talented ball players.
But there has never been a player who enjoyed playing ball more than Daniel Corbin.
It’s been a joy to be there for every single moment of it.
Daniel, your mom and I are so very proud of you. We look forward to walking with you into the next season of life.