Tharptown falls to Hackleburg
By Brannon King
For the FCT
The Tharptown Wildcats fell at home to the Hackleburg Panthers, 34-17, on Friday night.
The Wildcats (0-2) were able to slow down the Hackleburg (1-1) offense in the first quarter and held them scoreless. However, the Panthers pulled away in the second quarter and led by a score of 21-3 at the half.
Hackleburg quarterback Matt Harper threw four touchdown passes in the game to lead the way.
The Panthers got on the board first when Kaleb Moore caught a Harper pass for a 13-yard TD with 10:37 remaining in the second quarter. The extra point attempt failed, but Hackleburg led 6-0.
On the next drive, Tharptown moved the ball deep into Hackleburg territory led by the hard running of Tristen Smith. The senior back left the game with a knee injury that occurred after he went out of bounds on an 18-yard run. Smith had 51 yards rushing on 5 carries in just over a quarter of playing time.
Shawn Hines was able to make a 32-yard field goal to get Tharptown on the board to finish the drive.
The Panthers answered back when Harper found Kaleb Moore for a 21-yard TD pass. Kristian Jones took the option pitch in for the two-point conversion giving Hackleburg a 14-3 lead.
Harper then struck again finding Jones on a 24-yard TD pass. Court Stidham kicked the PAT.
Kristian Jones then made a big play on special teams by blocking a Tharptown punt. Later, Chris Freeman intercepted a Harper pass keeping the Panthers out of the end zone just before the half.
It only took two plays for Hackleburg to score in the third quarter. Evan Crowe ran it in from the one-yard-line after the Panthers were set up by a long reception by Stidham. The extra point kick was good giving the Panthers a 28-3 advantage.
Hackleburg’s final TD of the night came when Cassady Williams caught a Harper pass for a score.
Tharptown got into the end zone when Nathan Chaney scored on a one-yard TD run just before the end of the third quarter.
The Wildcats scored with just under two minutes to go in the game when Heath Hatton threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Allen Gaston. Mikey Rosson added the try for two.
Jacob Risley intercepted a pass for Tharptown in the game and Heath Hatton recovered a Hackleburg fumble for the Wildcats.
Austin Hill and Tanner Swinney of Hackleburg both recovered Tharptown fumbles during the game.
“Our kids played hard – they played hard on defense and they played hard on offense,” Tharptown head coach Bill Smith said after the game.
“We’re a little too limited right now. We’ve got to find a way to open things up a little. The passing game has got to get better. As far as effort, there’s a big difference between tonight and last week. Tonight, I’m proud of the kids.”
Tharptown will open 2A Region 8 play next by hosting the Cherokee Indians.