Crosby Gray's 27-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter was the difference as Class 7A No. 4 Spain Park beat visiting Austin of Decatur 5-3 in its season-opening game Friday night at Jaguar Stadium.
Gray's kick was set up when Leon Strong recovered a fumbled punt at the Austin 18. Three plays later, Gray booted it through to give the Jaguars the 5-3 lead wit 11:54 left in the game.
Fumbles, bad and bobbled snaps, and penalties were the order of the evening.
"I knew it was going to be ugly," said Spain Park coach Shawn Raney. "Three weeks of practice, no jamboree ... Every error you can make, we made it. But we're 1-0 and that's where we're supposed to be."
The Jaguars scored first at 7:31 of the opening quarter when an Austin snap sent quarterback Brandon Schreiber scurrying into his own end zone to recover the ball for a safety. That capped a particularly vexing opening minutes of the game when Luke Silver recovered a Black Bears fumble at the Austin 9 only to have Mason Duke toss an interception on the next play. But two plays later the Jags broke the ice with the safety.
After Wade Streeter returned the free kick to the Austin 45, Duke threw another interception to halt the momentum.
Midway in the third quarter, another bad snap, this time by the Jags, set up Austin's only scoring "drive," which was all of four plays. Irving Vera knocked home a 31-yard kick to give the Black Bears the 3-2 edge with 9:20 left in the half.
A Streeter burst 44 yards up the middle for an apparent score was called back for holding and the Bears took the lead the lockers.
Streeter, who showed flashes of why he's one of the top running backs in the area, knew his team could come back.
"God brought us together over the summer, and he brought us back tonight in the second half," the junior running back said. "That's the only comment I have."
Early in the fourth quarter, Spain Park's running game began to assert itself as Streeter and Larry Wooden managed to move the chains a few times and Tyler Sumpter's punting kept the Bears on their own end of the field. But an almost certain TD pass was dropped and on the next play a field goal try went wrong from the start.
With 2:32 left, the Jags defense, which was solid all night, managed to hold Austin off.
Gray said he wasn't nervous about the field goal that provided the game-winning points.
"Same kick as in practice," the junior kicker said. "Just follow through."
Spain Park travels to play Hueytown next Friday.