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Tharptown, Vina play spring game


THARPTOWN —   It has been a long six months since the last time coaches, players and fans of Tharptown and Vina got a taste of high school football.

Thanks to a spring jamboree hosted by Tharptown, perhaps cravings for prep football will be sated until the last weeks of August, though around these parts, that seems highly unlikely.

The Tharptown Wildcats, Vina Red Devils and Phillips Bears, all 1A region opponents, came together to shake off the rust and get some playing time for some new guys in the spring football game.

Each team played the other two for two quarters, meaning that in the end all three teams played four quarters or one entire game.

The spring games give teams a chance to know where they stand and what needs to be worked on before the workouts and conditioning of the long summer months.

Phillips came out on top on the night. They led Vina 16-12 after two quarters and Tharptown 22-6 after 24 minutes of play.

Vina perhaps was the most improved as the Red Devils were able to play with the Bears for two quarters and led Tharptown 24-14 at the end of that half game.

The Wildcats seemed to get the worst of it, but they had some hurdles to overcome, just as the other three teams did.

Vina had to find a new quarterback after Cody Renfrow’s senior year, so why not his younger brother Tyler. The young man did well on the night, but he was not alone in what made the Red Devils play some of their best football since the 2011 season.

“They played hard tonight, but we have a lot of work to do,” Vina head coach James Pharr said.

“We need to get them all better and back in shape. We’ll be better when we get them all back.

“I thought our offensive line played hard and our two running backs ran the ball well. We have a lot of work to do on defense.”

Renfrow’s help on offense came in the form of Justin Garrett, Andrew Hester, Drake Hester and Andrew Ray.

Most of these guys played for the Red Devils last season, and it is clear that some progress has been made since the 0-10 season last year.

Time will tell how Vina will manage in 2013 with only 19 players, so managing injuries and playing time will be key.

Vina started off playing the Phillips Bears, who are faced with the difficult task of replacing star quarterback Rodney Camp. In stepped his basketball counterpart Tyler Crumpton.

It was the Red Devils that got the first score of the game. The Bears fumbled on their first offensive play of the game, allowing for Vina’s Garrett to run in a touchdown from 8 yards out just four minutes and 16 seconds into the contest.

A failed conversion put Vina up 6-0, but Phillips would answer at the 2:48 mark of the first quarter with a 14-yard touchdown pass.

The Bears picked up the conversion to go ahead 8-6. Phillips extended its lead early in the second on a short run for a touchdown and picked up another 2-point conversion.

This gave the Bears a 16-6 advantage, but it would be the last points Vina would give up to its first opponent of the night.

The Red Devils put in another touchdown of their own with 1:55 left in the half on a short touchdown run. That game finalled at 16-12.

Next up came two quarters between the Red Devils and the Wildcats. Tharptown was without the services of quarterback Kelby Hallmark due to an arm injury sustained during baseball season, but Allen Bohannon was there to fill in at the spot. Having someone else play quarterback to free up Hallmark for other duties was in Tharptown head coach Bill Smith’s plans after last season anyway.

“I was hoping our other quarterback wasn’t going to quit on us because I was going to use Kelby differently anyway,” he said.

“With Bohannon at QB it gives me two quick guys back there and two strong runners.”

Hallmark was used primarily at wide receiver. He and Will Little, who returned to the gridiron this season, will be downfield options for Bohannon.

Tristen Smith and Mike Rice return to head up the running back spot. Both players ran hard at the opposition during the game and will look to make an impact for Tharptown this season.

The same goes for Hallmark, Little and Bohannon, who each made big plays for the Wildcats on the night.

“Allen played great,” Smith said. “He threw off his back foot, and we’ve got to correct that, but he has a good enough arm to throw.

“Will Little came back out this year, and he made some good catches for us. We wanted to get him in the game.

“The two big boys we’ve got, Fidel [Bonilla] and Santos Lopez, they’ve got to be able to play more physically.

“If we can start off the season right we ill be OK. When you let the early games get away you get in trouble for the season.

“I think offensively we’ll be as good as we’ve been and we should be better. If Tristen Smith and Mike [Rice] run as hard as they did tonight we’ll be all right at running back.”

It was the Red Devils that once again scored first in game two. Running back Andrew Hester went in from 2 yards out, and a conversion put Vina up 8-0 with 5:07 to go in the first.

It was Smith that helped tie the game with a 14-yard touchdown scamper. The conversion was a pass from Bohannon to Hallmark that connected for two points.

That tied the game at 8-8 at the 2:51 mark of the first quarter.

Ray scored on a 8-yard run for Vina around five minutes later to put the Red Devils back on top. The conversion made the score 16-8.

Bohannon used his legs to put more points on the board for Tharptown on the next drive, but a failed 2-point conversion left Vina ahead 16-14 with just over eight minutes to play.

The final score of this contest came when Ray punched in a short TD run with 1:29 to go. The Red Devils once again converted for two points, setting up the 24-14 final.

Things did not go so well for Tharptown when they played Phillips in the closing quarter or game, whatever one would call it.

The Bears were up 14-0 in the first quarter before Bohannon made a short run and score with 1:16 left. The failed conversion left Phillips up 14-6.

The Bears scored again at the 10:20 mark of the second quarter to finalize the score.

Despite falling in both games it is only a spring jamboree, and Coach Smith knows what he must do to prepare his squad for the fall season.

“Offensively I was pleased, but we have to learn to play defense,” he said. “That’s the key to any team anywhere.

“We’ve got to play better defense. In the spring you don’t have time to do the things you need to do, but offensively I’m glad we were able to use Bohannon at quarterback.

“Some of these younger kids need to get stronger, and we’ve got to be more prepared come fall.

“We have to teach these new guys a lot of the concepts and what it takes to play defense. We’ve got to start hitting people. That’s been the case since I’ve been here.

“I’ve never had a group of kids that would just absolutely play defense. Edgar Bahena and Kelby have been leading tacklers for us in the past, and when your leading tacklers are in the secondary you’re in trouble.”


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