Jags take down Warriors in thriller
Published 10:47 pm Friday, September 4, 2015
By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor
ALABASTER – When the time came to place the game on the feet of placekicker Crosby Gray, Spain Park head coach Shawn Raney said he didn’t hesitate for a second.
“I did not,” Raney said. “We were trying to set it up, and I was kind of thinking in my mind that’s how it was all going to unfold.”
With 19.3 seconds left in the game, Gray connected on a 39-yard field goal to put the Jaguars (2-1, 1-0 in Class 7A, Region 3) ahead 15-14 and give them the lead they needed to escape Larry Simmons Stadium with a victory.
Thompson’s defense remained stingy throughout the night, holding the Jaguars out of the endzone entirely, stopping them three times in the red zone.
“I’m very proud of our defense. They came up with big play after big play after big play. I’m proud of all our kids,” said Thompson head coach Mark Freeman said of the Warriors (2-1, 0-1 in Class 7A, Region 3). “I’m proud of the program, and I’m proud of where we’re going.
“It’s not a parade with a stop and finish, it’s a journey,” Freeman added. “And we’ve come a long ways right now. We’ve got to keep going and get ourselves better.”
The Jaguars jumped out to a 3-0 lead on their first drive of the game. Thompson senior defensive end Gracein Hall recorded a sack on SPHS quarterback Joey Beatty, forcing the Jags to settle for a 31-yard Gray field goal.
THS again held Spain Park out of the endzone on the Jags’ next drive, and Gray put the visiting team up 6-0 on a 39-yard field goal with 1:47 left in the first quarter.
Thompson answered on its next play when senior quarterback Walker Lott broke free for a 59-yard touchdown run. Dimitri Davis’ extra point put the Warriors ahead 7-6.
A muffed punt reception by Thompson midway through the second quarter set Spain Park to work from the Warriors’ 31-yard line, but the THS defense again held the Jags out of the endzone. Gray connected on a 44-yard field goal to put Spain Park ahead 9-7 with 5:10 left in the second quarter.
Just five plays into the second half, Thompson added another touchdown when senior running back Carlos Stephens broke free for a 49-yard touchdown run. Davis’ PAT put the home team ahead 14-9.
On the Jags’ next possession, Gray split the uprights on a 23-yard field goal attempt , cutting the Warriors’ lead to 14-12 with 8:03 remaining in the third quarter.
On Spain Park’s next two possessions, the Warriors stopped the Jags on fourth and goal from the Thompson 2-yard line, and Gray missed a 35-yard field goal attempt.
After Thompson was forced to punt the ball with 5:02 left in the game, the Jaguars got as close as the Thompson 12 yard line before Gray kicked the game-winning field goal.
“The grit of the guys – It continues to look bleak, and our kids just keep fighting. As a coach, that’s all you can ask for,” Raney said. “The defense, we gave up a few big plays, but overall I thought they played their tails off.
“That’s a good football team we just beat,” Raney said. “Coach Freeman and his staff have done an incredible job, and they’re going to win some games.”