Teams must forget about Week 1 losses, focus on rest of season
By Stephen Dawkins
Both football teams in North Chilton County had their hearts broken last week but can’t let it affect the rest of their seasons.
Both Jemison and Thorsby lost to county rivals (Chilton County High and Verbena, respectively) in dramatic fashion (19-12 and 14-6) in Week 1 of the season.
The players now have to forget the disappointment, which might not be as difficult as it seems because the Panthers and the Rebels probably performed better than expected.
Jemison lost several important contributors from the 2008 squad, which ended a four-year losing streak to CCHS with a 28-21 win at Tiger Stadium, but still played the Tigers tough on Aug. 27.
The Panthers Thursday took possession of the football on their own 36-yard line facing a 19-12 deficit with 2:22 left in the game. But the first play resulted in an interception by CCHS junior defensive back Anthony Atchison, and the visitors were able to run out the clock in both teams’ season opener, played mostly in a driving rain at Panther Stadium.
CCHS looked to be in control when they took a 19-6 lead with 8:33 left in the game on an 8-yard run by junior running back J.J. Agee, but Jemison got back within a touchdown 2-and-a-half minutes later on a Javae Swindle 7-yard run around left end.
Swindle, a sophomore running back, also scored on a 4th-and-goal from the CCHS 1-yard line with 2:14 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Swindle’s run was sandwiched between two CCHS scores: Senior quarterback Taylor Hughes hit junior receiver Montel Wilkes on a screen play that Wilkes turned into a 31-yard touchdown five minutes into the game, and Hughes scored from 4 yards out on a keeper with 54 seconds left in the first half.
The Panthers host Southside-Selma on Friday in their first region game. Jemison won the match-up last year, 45-20.
Rebels build on scrappy performance
Thorsby, meanwhile, played much better last week than it did in 2008’s 28-0 loss to Verbena, but it still wasn’t good enough to defeat the Red Devils.
“I can’t be more proud of them; they have absolutely sold out for our program,” Thorsby coach Billy Jackson said, and even the Red Devils agreed they played a better team this time around.
“Thorsby played us off the field,” Verbena coach Mike Harris said.
But the visitors took advantage of one crucial mistake to earn the win. Thorsby trailed 8-6 at halftime, seemed to be getting the better of Verbena and was set to receive the kickoff to begin the second half.
The momentum shifted dramatically as Verbena’s Jeremy Creger recovered a fumble on the kickoff, quarterback Brad Boswell connected with Christian Coston for 17 yards to the 1-yard line on the next play, and then Kelly Lucas punched it in.
The 2-point conversion attempt failed, but Verbena had built a lead Thorsby couldn’t threaten.
Thorsby struck first when, after Verbena’s regular punter had already been ejected from the game, Dustin Wilson blocked a punt by the back-up, Creger, with just under 4 minutes left in the first quarter. Phillip Hensley scooped up the football around the 5-yard line and ran it in. The point-after failed.
Verbena took the lead for good with 9:59 remaining in the second quarter on an 11-yard run by Kelly Dorsett. Kelly Lucas, who was Verbena’s leading rusher with 70 yards on 16 carries, ran in the 2-point conversion.
Unfortunately, the Rebels’ next three opponents—American Christian, Pickens County High and Fultondale—were all playoff teams last year.
“I hope we can build on [the performance against Verbena],” Jackson said. “We’re going to get better, and we’re going to be a tough team to play.”