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Tharptown wins season opener in new coach’s debut

It was the perfect ending to a long week for first-year Tharptown head coach Jacob Hamilton, as his Wildcats upended the Shoals Christian Flame 28-14.

Not only did he have to prepare and practice the game plan with his team, Hamilton had to learn to juggle the things many don’t think about at the outset of a new head coaching job – making sure the lights are working, making sure players are eligible, making sure the grass is cut and the field is painted. To top all that off, his school had to abruptly close early on game day because of water issues stemming from a leak and delayed repairs from the West Lawrence Water Authority.

“It was a long and exhausting week,” said Hamilton, who recently turned 25 years old. “It just feels great to get that first one out of the way.”

It wasn’t pretty, by any stretch. Most seasonopening games aren’t. Turnovers plagued both teams – many times leading to touchdowns.

“We played hard and with a lot of enthusiasm and intensity,” said Hamilton, “but we made a lot of mistakes we are going to have to work on.”

Shoals Christian scored first when a Tharptown fumble popped into the air and a Flame defender snatched it and ran it 52 yards for the game’s first points.

Tharptown’s Dawson Higgins scored from 20 yards out to cut the Flame’s lead to 7-6 with 4:13 to go in the first quarter.

With just less than two minutes remaining in the first quarter, Joel Perez picked up a Shoals Christian fumbled punt snap and returned it 30 yards, giving Tharptown a 12-7 lead.

About two minutes into the second quarter, the Wildcats extended their lead on an 8-yard by Hunter Reynolds. Higgins’ two-point conversion run made the score 20-7.

Shoals Christian cut into Tharptown’s lead at the start of the third quarter with a 12-yard run for a touchdown to make the score 20-14.

The Wildcats, however, added their final score with 18 seconds to go in the third quarter when Jeremy Vasquez returned another Shoals Christian fumble for a touchdown. This return went for 18 yards. Reynolds completed the two-point conversion pass to Vasquez to give the Wildcats a 28-14 lead.

Vasquez had a huge night for the Wildcats on the defensive side of the ball, recording four tackles and four sacks, including the fumble recovery for a touchdown. Offensively, Vasquez carried the ball nine times for 73 yards.

Reynolds recorded six tackles and caused two fumbles, including one recovered for a touchdown.

Higgins led the Wildcats offensively, carrying the ball 20 times for 121 yards and a touchdown.

Tharptown travels to Bear Creek Friday night to play Phillips.