Photo by Ted Melton.
Spain Park quarterback Joey Beatty runs for yardage against Hewitt-Trussville.
Spain Park senior quarterback Joey Beatty constructed a stunning debut in his first start at the varsity level.
In the Jags’ season opener at Austin High School on Aug. 21, the 5-foot-10 gunslinger threw for over 250 yards and two touchdowns, demonstrating his ability to make quick decisions and find the open receiver.
“He’s not going to make many mistakes, and he’ll come up with some plays for us,” Spain Park coach Shawn Raney said after the game. “I think he’ll continue to get better because he’s a good worker and a good kid.”
Although the Jags would go on to lose their opener in heartbreaking fashion, falling to Austin 38-35 in triple overtime, Raney’s initial postgame assessment has proven to be incredibly accurate.
Over the course of the season, Beatty has emerged as a reliable game manager who makes few mistakes, showcasing his ability to limit turnovers while sparking big offensive plays.
Like the time when Beatty hit tight end Will Greene in stride down the right sideline on a precise 40-yard touchdown pass in the second half against Hoover High on Oct. 1.
The clutch TD gave the Jags a 17-0 advantage and essentially knocked the wind out of the Bucs’ sails, helping the Jags solidify the first victory in school history over their archrival.
Or, there was the time when Beatty, under intense duress from the Hewitt-Trussville defense, adroitly rolled out of a collapsing pocket, bounced off of a Husky defender to avoid being sacked and then delivered a 21-yard dart to trusted wide receiver Bridge Suber in the corner of the end zone.
“I think I’ve done well,” Beatty said. “I mean not totally amazing; I have great players around me to help me, so I think I’ve done OK.”
The results suggest that’s a modest understatement.
Since suffering the stinging defeat on opening night, the Jags have been on a tear. With Beatty under center, Spain Park (12-1, 7-0) has clicked off an impressive winning streak, going undefeated in region play and ascending to the top ranking in Class 7A.
“After the first game, after that loss, we didn’t ever hang our heads, we just kept working,” Suber said. “I think we found ourselves in that game, found out who we needed to be on offense and who we needed to be on defense. Now the sky’s the limit.”
It certainly appears so.
To supplement Beatty’s chemistry with his receiving corps, Spain Park also boasts one of the most dynamic and punishing backfields in the state. Behind a powerful offensive line, running backs Larry Wooden and Wade Streeter are capable of breaking loose on any given play.
“It helps me a lot, because it can take the pressure off of me when I’m throwing the ball with play action because they’re all sucked in to the run, and I have wide open receivers I can easily deliver the ball to,” Beatty said.
On the defense, the Jags are just as stout. Led by linebacker Perry Young, the Spain Park defense has held opponents to 80 points all season, tallying four shutout performances.
“I thought we were capable of big things, I really did,” Beatty said. “I’m comfortable with all the offensive players, and I knew our defense was going to be really, really good this year, so I was really hoping that we would have a good season.”
Thanks to consistent, disciplined play across the board, especially from their quarterback, those initial hopes have come to fruition. And, as the Jags prepare for their state championship battle with McGill-Toolen, they appear poised to make history.
Led by Beatty — whose progressive growth in confidence mirrors that of his entire team — there’s reason to believe Spain Park has a legitimate shot of winning its first state title.
“I’m shooting for it, I know that, and I hope everyone around me is, too,” Beatty said. “That’s what we’re really pushing for.”