Rebels ride momentum into rivalry, playoffs

Published 7:36 pm Thursday, October 30, 2014

Coach Billy Jackson can point to the turning point this season for the Thorsby football program.

Losers of nine consecutive games coming into the season, and not having won a region game since Oct. 7, 2011, a season-opening 32-7 win over Holtville finally gave fans something to cheer about and players something to feel good about.

Those feelings faded quickly after a 14-6 loss to Verbena and then a 42-7 shellacking against Pickens County, a state champion in 2013 that Thorsby faced without seven starters on offense.

But instead of allowing the negatives to snowball, as they had in previous years, the Rebels fought hard against R.C. Hatch on Sept. 15 in a game postponed three days because of inclement weather.

“I think the turning point of the year was, it was nothing-nothing in the game, and in the third quarter we go up 7-0,” Jackson said. “They score with no time on the clock (at the end of the fourth quarter) and go for two. They run the lead, and we stuff him, but then quarterback takes the ball from him and tries to run around the edge. We see it and tackle him.

“If we had lost that game…I really don’t know.”

Thorsby won, and then has won all five games since then, to compile marks of 7-2 overall and 5-1 in region play, good enough to clinch second place in Class 2A, Region 4 and secure homefield advantage in the first round of the state playoffs.

“We’ve had a great year,” Jackson said. “Our kids deserved for something good to happen to them. They’ve worked so hard this year.”

The Rebels hope to sustain their momentum this week against rival Isabella and then into the state playoffs.

After watching film of the Mustangs (5-2 overall, 3-2 region), Jackson said his team has its work cut out.

“I think Isabella is one of the best teams we’ve played,” he said. “They’re so solid. We better be ready. They’re going to be ready.

“We’re going to have to play perfect football to be able to stay on the field with them. It’s going to be a huge test for us.”

Jackson said the team’s offense, defense and special teams have all improved, but he most significant difference is the team’s attitude.

“Instead of going into a game hoping we can win, we think we can win, we believe we can win,” Jackson said. “That mindset is there now, and it hasn’t always been there.”

This week’s games

• Calera at Chilton Co. (Thursday)

• Verbena at Jacksonville Christian

• Sweet Water at Maplesville

• Billingsley at Montevallo (Thursday)

• Jemison at Park Crossing

– All games at 7 p.m. unless noted otherwise