Tharptown moves to 2-0 with win over Vina
By Brannon King
For the FCT
In Friday night’s 1A Region 8 opener, both the Tharptown Wildcats and the Vina Red Devils implemented a similar game plan.
It was clear that each team wanted to run the ball early and often.
The plan worked in the first half for the home team as Vina held a slim 13-12 halftime lead behind the running of Andrew Hester who carried the ball 11 times for 88 yards and one touchdown. Hester, who suffered an apparent arm injury, never carried the ball in the second half and Vina was shutout in falling to Tharptown 28-13 in the early season battle between Franklin County teams.
Tharptown relied heavily on the running of quarterback Kelby Hallmark to lead them to their second-straight victory.
The night’s scoring began on a 50-yard touchdown run on fourth down and two by Hallmark with 6:25 remaining in the opening quarter. The extra point was wide, making the score 6-0, Tharptown.
On the ensuing drive, Vina answered as Andrew Hester scored from 8-yards out to even the score. The Red Devil extra point by Drake Hester was true and Vina led 7-6.
The following kickoff was fumbled by the Wildcats and recovered by Bradley Duncan of Vina.
Vina then put together an 11-play drive ending in a touchdown run by quarterback Tyler Renfrow from 3-yards-out. The extra point kick failed and Vina led 13-6 with 8:25 to go in the half.
Tharptown moved the ball deep into Red Devil territory but a fourth-down run came up short turning the ball over to Vina. The Wildcat defense stood strong making the Red Devils punt out of their own endzone.
After the punt, Tharptown took over at the Vina 20-yard-line. It didn’t take long for the Wildcats to score. On first down, Kelby Hallmark found Trent Miller for a touchdown throw and catch bringing them to within a point of evening the score. Tharptown’s try for two originally was called good, but after the officials discussed the play, the call was overturned due to an illegal forward pass making the score at halftime, Vina 13, Tharptown 12.
The Red Devils held the lead at the break without attempting a single pass in the half.
Vina sought to gain momentum in the second half by trying an onside kick. The try was successful as Vina’s Drake Hester fell on the ball giving the Red Devils possession.
The Tharptown defense made sure the Red Devils wouldn’t take advantage forcing a three-and-out.
The teams would trade possessions until Vina decided to attempt a pass, it was caught but by Tharptown’s Kelby Hallmark. Hallmark returned the interception all the way down to the Vina 10-yard-line. Four plays later, Hallmark finished what he started as he ran it in on fourth down from the two-yard-line.
Hallmark found Will Little who made the catch for the two-point conversion giving the Wildcats a 20-13 lead near the end of the third quarter.
Tharptown’s John Donner raced 37-yards for the final touchdown of the night and Hallmark found Trent Miller for two to make the score 28-13 finishing Tharptown’s victory.
The 2-0 start is a new feeling for the Wildcats.
“It’s good for these kids, they’ve never had it so we’re looking forward to more. I just hope everything keeps going,” Tharptown head coach Bill Smith said.
The game also was a return to a place that Smith is familiar with as he served as coach of Vina for 10 years and knows the current Vina head coach well.
“Coach Pharr is one of my ex-players at Hackleburg. You know, he wants to beat me and I don’t want him to, but he has before and he does a good job with these kids. These people down here, I have a special place in my heart for them too,” Smith said.
“I know how it is to have to battle when you don’t have numbers and all but their kids have a lot to be proud of. They played really, really hard.”
Tharptown will try to keep their winning streak alive as they host Waterloo next. week Vina will be trying for their first win of the season at Shoals Christian.