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Tharptown falls to Hackleburg

By Slade Gilmer for the FCT


Tharptown fell behind big early, and despite some positive signs in the second half, particularly with the ground game, fell 45-6 to Class 1A’s 9th-ranked Hackleburg Panthers at Ray Family Stadium Sept. 4.

It was a big night for Wildcat coach Jason Murray, a 1990 Hackleburg graduate who was the defensive coordinator on the 2009 Panther team that reached the Class 1A state finals. However, Hackleburg made it clear early that they were not willing to give him a happy homecoming.

On the second play from scrimmage, quarterback Matt Harper kept the ball on a keeper and raced 40 yards for a touchdown. Stone Fincher added the two-pointer to give the Panthers an early 8-0 lead.

Two bad snaps on the next drive forced a Tharptown punt. The Panthers started at the Wildcat 24, but a Harper pass on fourth down fell incomplete.

Unfortunately, Tharptown was unable to take advantage, and after another punt and a pass interference call, Harper hit Austin Pierson for an 11-yard touchdown. Harper then hit Jonathan Ables for the two-pointer.

The Wildcats started on their own 31, but two bad snaps and a run set up a 4th-and-21 from the 20. The snap went over punter Matt Hall’s head. Hall alertly fell on the ball in the end zone before the Panthers could get to it, but the resulting safety made the score 18-0.

The two teams traded possessions, as Hackleburg failed on a fourth down from its own 35, then the Wildcats missed an opportunity for a first down.

Harper hit Court Stidham for a 33-yard play on first down, and two plays later, the Harper-to-Stidham connection clicked again, this time for a nine-yard touchdown. Harper ran it in for two to give the Panthers a 26-0 lead.

After another Wildcat punt, the Tharptown defense came alive, pressuring Harper on two downs before Heath Hatton picked off a pass. Unfortunately, the Wildcats were unable to take advantage, and Tharptown was forced to punt.

Harper hit Stidham for a 36-yard gain on second-and-25, and Harper cashed in the drive a few plays later to make the score 32-0 at halftime.

The Panthers wasted little time in the second half, as after a 39-yard punt, the Panthers hit a 53-yard pass before Stidham ran it in for 29 yards to make the score 38-0.

From there, the two teams traded possessions, with the Wildcats holding Hackleburg on down at the Tharptown 9.

From there, the Wildcats had their best drive of the night, a 16-play, 91-yard drive that saw the Wildcats actually gain 104 yards with penalties.

Runningback Mikey Rosson was the workhorse on the drive, as he ran nine times for 66 yards. Hatton also got in on the action, with a 20-yard scramble on third-and-goal from the 24 that set up Rosson’s four-yard touchdown.

The extra-point attempt was wide, making the score 38-6.

Hackleburg’s Stidham took the ball in from 55 yards to make the final score 45-6.

Rosson finished the night with 102 yards on 17 carries. Hatton completed seven passes for 18 yards and added an interception.

The Wildcats (0-2) will be in action Sept. 11, when they open region play at Cherokee.