Tharptown falls short against Flame
FLORENCE – Despite an 18-point scoring spree by visiting Tharptown, Shoals Christian prevailed 28-26 Friday to claim its first season victory on homecoming night.
"I just told them to keep their heads up because they fought hard," Tharptown coach Barry Laster said. "Even though we got behind, they never gave up and kept playing hard."
In its first-ever Class 1A, Region 8 meeting with Shoals Christian, Tharptown (1-6, 1-5) trailed 14-0 with 8:33 remaining in the first half after Ben Wood scored on a 6-yard run in the first quarter and Taylor Brackens hauled in a 48-yard pass from Pete King midway through the second quarter.
But the Wildcats found their rhythm on their third possession with an 11-play scoring drive that started with a 27-yard kickoff return by speedy seventh-grader Kelby Hallmark to the Tharptown 42-yard line.
Sophomore Nathan Gray converted a shovel pass from Brandon Cothrum into a 10-yard gain on third-and-six and Jacob Parker ran nine yards to convert a fourth-and-three to help the Wildcats overcome three penalties during the drive, which was capped by a 38-yard touchdown pass to Manny Ricardo with 3:10 remaining in the second quarter to cut the deficit to 14-6.
Shoals Christian (1-6, 1-5) responded with a 13-play, 64-yard drive to the Tharptown 1-yard line as King completed 8-of-11 passes to three different receivers. But the Flame couldn't capitalize as junior Trevor Hallmark darted into the backfield on second-and-goal and sacked King for a seven-yard loss with no time remaining in the first half.
"Trevor Hallmark saved us on the last play before the half ended," Laster said. "He blew through their line and hit the QB for a 4-yard loss and that gave us a spark in the second half."
After Tharptown fumbled on the opening drive of the second half, the Wildcats defense came up with a stop on fourth-and-12 at its own 30-yard line as Ricardo tackled King two yards short of a first down.
Tharptown took over possession at its own 20-yard line and marched to the Flame 1-yard line as Cothrum completed five passes to three different receivers for 73 yards. After Ricardo was stopped just shy of the end zone on a 9-yard reception, Hallmark went up the middle to score his first touchdown of the season with 3:29 left in the third quarter and complete the 14-play drive. After the 2-point conversion failed, the Wildcats trailed 14-12.
After a Shoals Christian punt that went out at the Tharptown's 48-yard line, the Wildcats took their first lead of the game with a four-play drive that started with a leaping 26-yard grab by Ricardo, who was double-covered.
With Tharptown facing second-and-14, Ricardo drew a pass interference call that gave the Wildcats a first down and the ball at the 15-yard line. Two plays later Parker followed a wall of blockers and fought his way into the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown to give Tharptown an 18-14 lead with no time remaining in the third period.
But Shoals Christian answered on its next two drives as Wood scored twice to put the Flame ahead 28-18 with 5:27 left in the fourth quarter.
The Wildcats kept the game close as Parker scored on a 4-yard run up the middle and rushed for the 2-point conversion to cut the lead to 28-26.
After another Flame punt, Tharptown started from its own 49-yard line with 1:26 left in the game but Shoals Christian intercepted Cothrum at its own 20-yard line and ran out the clock.
Cothrum, who was making just his fourth career start, finished 13-of-22 for 224 yards, a touchdown and one interception. Ricardo had nine catches for 184 yards and a touchdown, while Nathan Gray caught three passes for 32 yards and rushed five times for 20 yards. Parker rushed six times for 35 yards, two scores and a 2-point conversion and Hallmark also had a rushing touchdown.
"Manny always catches the ball well," Laster said. "He's a great receiver who gives everything he's got, and he's been our go-to guy.
"Brandon has only started four games for us and still has a lot of kinks to work out but he has shown a lot of improvement."
Parker and Ricardo each have a team-high three touchdowns this season.
Defensively, Hallmark, Kent Allen and Jarrod Seay each had a tackle for a loss. Hallmark finished with a team-high seven tackles and a sack, while Ricardo and Parker each made five tackles and Zach Sockwell had four.
Tharptown will host R.A. Hubbard Thursday at 6 p.m. The Indians, a perennial playoff team, depend on their rushing attack to move the chains.
"We need to focus on stopping the run and taking care of the ball – fumbles have seemed to be a plague for us this season," Laster said. "We have to put this behind us and get ready for Hubbard next week."