Jags fight back, get to 6-0 with win over Thompson

Published 12:31 am Saturday, October 5, 2013

Spain Park's Otis Harris breaks a run in a 28-17 win over Thompson Oct. 4. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Spain Park’s Otis Harris breaks a run in a 28-17 win over Thompson Oct. 4. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

By CLAYTON HURDLE/For the Reporter

HOOVER — For the first time since its inception, the Spain Park High School football team is 6-0.

The Jags outlasted the visiting Thompson Warriors 28-17 behind a stout defense and two prolific Otis Harris receiving touchdowns.

“It’s great how [6-0] has never been done,” senior quarterback Mickey Forrest said. “As a senior, I’ll never be able to forget this. This is a once in a lifetime deal.”

Harris’s signature moment in the game, a 52-yard catch and run in which he dodged and weaved between tacklers, was the go-ahead score in the third quarter.

It wasn’t easy for Spain Park to begin with, though. After a 57-yard bomb from Forrest to Dalton Brown put the Jags up 7-0 on their opening drive, the game featured nine consecutive drives that resulted in punts.

Senior lineman Devin Pughsley recorded a defensive gem during the first half for the Jags with three sacks and a forced fumble.

“We’ve been in this situation before where we needed to take care of business [defensively],” Pughsley said. “We watched film on the offensive line and capitalized on it to make the plays that we needed to make.”

Pughsley recorded an additional sack later in the game to finish with four total.

Taking a 7-0 lead into the locker room, Jaguar head coach Shawn Raney focused not on changing things, but improving them.

“We stuck with what we do,” he said. “At halftime we didn’t do much as far as adjustments, we just had to do what we were doing and make it better.”

Unfortunately for Spain Park, it took back-to-back Warrior touchdowns for things to improve.

The first Thompson score occurred just 14 seconds into the second half as senior Dee Tolbert dashed up the middle and outran the entire Jaguar defense for 80 yards.

After Forrest’s first pass attempt of the half was intercepted deep in Spain Park territory, the Warriors only needed two Zach Brammer quarterback draws to score again.

“Everyone was on the sideline picking me up because I was a little down,” Forrest said. “You’ve got to stay positive. I knew we had to come out next drive and make a statement.”

Forrest and the Jags offense made that statement emphatically. Forrest completed nine of his last 11 attempts and Harris recorded 137 of his 170 total yards from scrimmage after the second Thompson touchdown.

Spain Park scored touchdowns on three straight offensive drives in the third and fourth quarters after falling behind.

Harris’ first touchdown catch-and-run converted a Forrest screen pass 24 yards into the end zone to tie the game at the 6:59 mark in the third.

After the Jaguar defense forced a Thompson three-and-out, Harris’ 52-yarder capped a three-minute drive with 2:33 to play in the quarter.

“All I have to do is get the ball to Otis and he’s going to make plays,” Forrest said. “He’s an outstanding player. You can’t go wrong with him.”

The Warriors began the fourth quarter with a 37-yard David Buckelew field goal to cut the Jags’ lead to four.

An ensuing 45-yard Austin Haight kickoff return set the Jaguars up in good position. Just five plays later, Forrest found Brown for the pair’s second touchdown connection of the night.

To set the metaphorical dagger into the Warriors, junior defensive back Michael Jackson picked off Brammer on Thompson’s next drive.

“The defensive line did its job of keeping pressure on [Brammer] the whole game,” Jackson said. “He just threw it up and all I had to do was catch it.”

Next up for the Jaguars is a road trip to region and county foe Oak Mountain. The showdown against the 3-3 Eagles will be a homecoming for both Raney and Forrest, who previously coached at and attended Oak Mountain, respectively.

“We’ve never been 7-0 either,” Raney said of his Jaguar squad. “We have to keep building on this thing.”