J.R. Tidwell/FCT Justin Knight (22) of Phil Campbell makes a fake dive up the middle against the Tharptown Wildcats Thursday night. Knight scored three rushing touchdowns for the Bobcats.

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PCHS defeats THS

Published 2:41pm Tuesday, September 4, 2012

THARPTOWN — When the Phil Campbell Bobcats left Tharptown Thursday night, they did so with a 33-27 victory and their first win of the season.

What they did not leave the field with was an easy victory. The Wildcats got off to an early lead, but the Bobcats fought back after halftime to take a large advantage until late in the game, but even then the Wildcats would not lose the game lying down.

This matchup marked the first time that the two county schools met during the regular season, and both programs are trying to turn things around after a disappointing 2011 season.

“I’ll be honest, we didn’t start very well,” Phil Campbell head coach Jason Hill said.  “They came out and had an outstanding game plan. They did exactly what we thought they were going to do. Kelby Hallmark is a great athlete, and early on we just didn’t want to tackle him.”

The Wildcats got the ball to start the game, but their opening drive petered out around midfield. Tharptown’s punt touched a Bobcat player, and the Wildcats managed to recover the muff.

The cost of the Bobcats’ mistake was a 13-yard touchdown pass from Tharptown quarterback Kelby Hallmark to tight end Matthew Brasuell a few plays later.

Edgar Bahena hit the PAT, and the Wildcats took an early 7-0 lead.

Another mistake cost the Bobcats on the ensuing kickoff. Kick returner Jamie Dorroh, likely the fastest player on the Bobcats’ side of the field, returned the kick to the house in a 98-yard return. However, a penalty negated the big play, and Phil Campbell was unable to return to the end zone during the drive.

Wildcats quarterback Hallmark made his abilities known on the next drive for Tharptown. He shot off on a 53-yard scamper before being pulled down in the red zone. He took the ball across the alumni stripe just seconds later on a 5-yard run. The point after by Bahena put the Wildcats up 14-0 in the first quarter.

Things started going right for Phil Campbell and wrong for Tharptown after that point. The Wildcats had another opportunity to score in the first, but the drive came down to a 4th and 2 in Bobcat territory.

Tharptown was unable to make the first down to continue the drive, and Phil Campbell gained its first real momentum of the game.

The Bobcats drove the length of the field and scored on a 5-yard touchdown run by Justin Knight at the 5:45 mark in the second. The Bobcats’ conversion failed, and Tharptown maintained a 14-6 lead.

Phil Campbell had another scoring opportunity just before halftime, but Hallmark made a touchdown-saving tackle at the 2-yard line to keep the score at 14-6 during intermission.

The Bobcats gained all of the momentum coming out of the half and started their first comeback of the season.

Knight picked up his second rushing touchdown of the game on a 3-yard run just three and a half minutes into the third quarter. Phil Campbell quarterback Jacob Hamilton ran in the conversion, and the Bobcats had tied the game at 14-14.

A Tharptown fumble led to a 1-yard touchdown run by Dorroh five minutes later, and the Bobcats took a 20-14 lead, their first of the game and one they would not relinquish.

“We should have punted at that point in the first quarter,” Tharptown head coach Bill Smith said. “I made a mistake. I knew if we could take another one in that it would really make a big difference to us. Coming out at halftime we played hard but we started making mistakes. After they scored and we fumbled and they scored again, that kind of broke our back.”

Phil Campbell added to its lead with 11:37 remaining in the fourth on a 62-yard touchdown pass from Hamilton to David Sparks.

A pair of turnovers followed the score Dorroh picked off Hallmark, but the Wildcats recovered a fumble shortly after.

The final score for the Bobcats came via Knight once again, this time on an 11-yard touchdown run with 4:20 remaining in the fourth.

“I call him the ‘Dark Knight,’” Hill said. He’s one of our team captains and he is an unbelievably outstanding young man. The way he was running the ball, I’ve never seen him run the ball with that much passion and desire. He was willing himself into the end zone.”

Phil Campbell amassed a 33-14 lead deep in the fourth, but the Wildcats did not go out quietly.

The last two scores of the game came on long bombs from Hallmark to Bahena, the first a 26-yard touchdown pass, the second a 78 yarder.

Tharptown cut the score to 33-27, but Phil Campbell kept possession of the following kick and had to run out only 50 more seconds to pick up the win.

“I’m proud of my guys,” Hill said. “I’m proud of the fact that they made a comeback. I’m proud of the fact that they didn’t hang their heads, and in the second half they came back and did exactly what we told them to do at halftime.”

Now that the season opener is in the win column for Phil Campbell, the Bobcats will be looking to continue the streak next Friday at Hatton.

“I was surprised I was able to last the whole game,” Knight said. “It feels great to win this one. It’s been a long time since this program has been up to something good, and I think this is our year to do it.”

Tharptown will host the Vina Red Devils next Friday.

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