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Tharptown picks up first win

THS senior Mike Rice (32) sprints down the field during Tharptown’s win over Cherokee Friday. Photo by Bart Moss.
THS senior Mike Rice (32) sprints down the field during Tharptown’s win over Cherokee Friday. Photo by Bart Moss.

By Bart Moss

For the FCT

Back in January when Tharptown High School found out they would move from class 1A to class 2A by just a half a student, there was admittedly some apprehension among the football players.

Tharptown coach Bill Smith spent all spring, summer and fall trying to convince his players that they could play at the 2A level.

“We’ve talked about it,” said Smith during the preseason.

“I told the players that we could play with these teams. We’ve played in a tough 1A region the past few years and we’ve played some 2A teams and won. The players just need to believe they can win.”

Friday night the Wildcats heeded their coach’s words and defeated the Cherokee Indians 9-3 for the school’s first win of the season and their first win in class 2A.

“This feels great,” senior running back Mike Rice said.

“We’ve been working for this for a long time. We played hard tonight and got after them. I am so proud of this team. This was our homecoming. A win like this makes homecoming even better. We need to remember this feeling and build on it. We can’t be satisfied.”

The offense was powered by Rice, who carried the ball 26 times for 156 yards.

“We ran the ball hard tonight and controlled the ball,” Rice said.

“We had great blocking up front and our quarterback, Heath Hatton, stepped up and played a great game tonight. We won this game with defense, though. We really got after them, played physical and made some big plays.”

Defense played a big role throughout the game and helped win the game in the end.

The Wildcats had 13 tackles for losses resulting in -75 yards. Tharptown recorded four sacks for losses of 10 or more yards including a big 12-yard sack by Mikey Rosson with less than 30 seconds remaining in the game. Rosson’s sack took the Indians out of scoring position and helped secure the win for the Wildcats.

It was Rosson who got Tharptown on the board first early in the game. The Wildcats put together a solid first drive of the game. Rice broke several tackles before netting a 38-yard run inside the Indian 10 yard line. However, the Wildcats turned the ball over to the Indians on the very next play.

On Cherokee’s first snap of the game, Rosson broke through the line and brought the Indian quarterback down in the end zone for a safety to make the score 2-0 midway through the first quarter.

Cherokee didn’t get on the board until midway through the third quarter on a 26-yard field goal to make the score 3-2 Indians.

On the next series, Tharptown marched 55 yards in 11 plays for the first, and only, touchdown of the game. Heath Hatton hit Allen Gaston on a five-yard touchdown pass and Shawn Hines booted the extra point to give the Wildcats a 9-3 lead with seven seconds remaining in the third quarter. Hatton also had a 28-yard scramble and run on the drive to set up the touchdown.

Cherokee got the ball back with less than five minutes remaining in the game and began to put together a potential game-winning drive. The Indians got all the way down to the Tharptown eight yard line with less than a minute to go in the game before Rosson came up with the big, game-ending defensive play.

Tharptown rushed for 213 yards on the night and held Cherokee to just 66 yards on the ground.