Rivalry victory: Jemison beats heat and Thorsby in opener

Published 12:31 pm Friday, August 25, 2023

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By Carey Reeder | Managing Editor

Jemison High School defended home field in the 2023 installment of the north Chilton clash prevailing 27-26 over Thorsby High School in the team’s season opener on Aug. 25.

On a hot and humid late summer night in Jemison, the Panthers captured their first win over an in-county opponent since 2020 (35-8 over Thorsby), and arguably head coach John Therrell’s biggest win since his tenure began in 2021.

“You have to give it up to Thorsby. They are a great team, and they have a bunch of athletes and players,” Therrell said. “It was hot out here, and we came out here and did what we needed to do. It was not pretty at times, it was not exactly what we wanted at some points in the game, but it is a testament to the type of team we have and the type of team that we have been working towards the last two years.”

Thorsby took the opening kickoff and drove inside Jemison territory before quarterback Grayson McManus was picked off by Jemison’s Wes Collum. The Panthers went three and out on their first offensive possession, and Thorsby would dominate the rest of the quarter. McManus found Luke Turner for a huge gain to set up a four-yard touchdown run by Nate Thomas. The Rebels missed the point after try and later did not convert a pair of two-point conversions that became huge once the game went final.

Thorsby forced a fumble in Jemison territory to set up McManus for a touchdown toss to Carson Church, followed by a two-point conversion throw to Brooks Barnett to go up 14-0 after one period. Barnett led Thorsby with five catches for 44 yards. McManus was 7-for-15 for 112 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He added 96 rushing yards on 12 carries to his totals.

Jemison got tricky for their first score as running back Kintre Jackson found quarterback Luke Gann for a 45-yard touchdown connection to make it 14-7 at halftime.

The Panthers went three and out after receiving the second half kickoff, and then surrendered a 50-yard touchdown run by former Panther Coden Cummings. Thorsby’s first failed two-point conversion of the second half came after the score to make it 20-6. Cummings ran for 67 yards on six carries.

Jemison returned the ensuing kickoff into Thorsby territory, and a heavy dose of Jackson was on the menu for the Panthers. It ended with Jackson cutting the lead to 20-14 on a two-yard touchdown run.

While numerous players from both teams were affected by the heat throughout the second half, Jackson could not go more than two or three plays before needing a breather for cramps.

“He did a great job tonight, and there were a bunch of other guys who were in the same boat,” Therrell said. “They were just tough, that is all you can say. They wanted it tonight, and I am very proud of them.”

The Jemison defense forced a fumble near midfield to get the ball back late in the third quarter, and Jackson got into the end zone for the second time with a three-yard run to make it 20-20 after the missed point after attempt.

The Rebels were only tied for two minutes as Thomas was aided by a wall of blockers and scampered 70 yards down the sideline the next kickoff to put Thorsby back up going into the fourth quarter. The second failed two-point conversion left the game at a six-point difference, 26-20.

In the fourth quarter, Gann and Therrell put together a solid drive mixing in run plays with short pass plays that got the Panthers inside the Thorsby red zone. Gann hit numerous slants, under and short routes to receivers throughout the game that established a great rhythm that became crucial late.

Gann put the finishing touch on the drive with a 12-yard toss to Damian Stafford with six minutes left. The point after kick was good to give Jemison its first lead of the game, 27-26.

Thorsby got inside the Jemison red zone, but the Panthers defensive line put pressure on the Rebels and caused the fourth down turnover. The Rebels had one more chance getting the ball back with 3:19 left at their own 35-yard line, but Jemison’s Houston Harris picked off McManus to put the game away.

“I am really excited to watch the boys for the rest of season, and now we are moving on to Chilton (County High School),” Therrell said. “(This win) gives us a lot of confidence, and we can definitely ride this wave going forward into another county opponent and into region play.”

Jemison (1-0) will host Chilton County High School in their next game on Aug. 31 at 7 p.m. Thorsby (0-1) will host Prattville Christian Academy on Sept. 1 at 7 p.m.

Jemison player Nick Wright received medical attention following the game. He is doing well the morning after and is in good spirits along with his family.