Revisiting the Rebels, Mustangs instant classic

Published 3:18 pm Wednesday, September 13, 2023

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By Carey Reeder | Managing Editor

In a series that has been played every year since 1966, Thorsby and Isabella high schools put together arguably the best game in 57-year history of the series on Sept. 8 as the Rebels took it 50-43.

The stakes were high for the two Chilton County rivals as both teams opened their AHSAA Class 2A Region 4 schedule against each other, and both teams responded.

The two schools played the highest scoring game in the series’ history (93) on Sept. 8 that featured 772 total yards of offense. The scoring was just a tad more than last season’s game that broke the scoring record where Isabella came out on top 59-30.

There were five lead changes in the first quarter alone and there were no punts in the game. The second quarter was the lowest scoring quarter as Kaden Tuttle led the Isabella defense with two interceptions, and Malachi Allgood led the Thorsby defense with a fumble recovery inside the Mustangs’ 10-yard line. Allgood led all tacklers in the game with 18, and leads the AHSAA with 51 on the season so far.

“I would much rather be doing things the right way and not turning the ball over, but you have got to give Thorsby a lot of credit,” Isabella head coach Tate Leonard said. “We knew they were good before we played them, and they are a very good team. After watching film they certainly deserved to win … We just did not do some things right, but moving forward we just have to get better.”

Leonard added that the Mustangs are a working progress, and if they can learn from the loss they will get a lot better from it. He said he has encouraged his team to flush the game and turn their attention to upcoming region games on their schedule.

Thorsby held the lead at halftime and scored first in the second half to go up 30-21, and added another touchdown after stopping an Isabella fake punt attempt. Isabella scored twice to cut the lead to 36-30 going into the fourth quarter. In the final frame, Isabella cut the Thorsby lead to one possession on three separate occasions. Each time, the Rebels responded on their next offensive drive with a touchdown.

Thorsby head coach Daryl Davis said the message to the team leading up to the Sept. 8 game was to respond, not react. Defensive coordinator Charles Bowden was preaching it to his players all week, and the way the game played out against Isabella, there could not have been a better message to receive.

“We talk to them all the time about the highs and lows. Isabella got the ball and went down and scored fairly easy, but we came back out and did our thing to go down and score,” Davis said. “Every time it seemed like we responded and did not react. They did exactly that. Things will not always go our way (against Isabella), but do not react to it, respond. That is what they did, and it was the perfect little saying all week for that game. They did exactly what we asked them to do.”

Davis said it was tough to start the Rebels region schedule playing a local rival and great team first in Isabella. However, now after the win, he said the team is believing in themselves and it has them motivated.

Standout players for Thorsby on defense were Tyler Lockhart who joined Allgood in double digit tackles with 12, and N’Ky Nunn had a sack. On offense, Brooks Barnett hauled in four of the eight completions from quarterback Grayson McManus for the Rebels on offense.

Isabella quarterback Eli Kendrick accounted for 316 of the 374 total yards the Mustangs posted against Thorsby with 190 through the air and 126 on the ground. He posted a game high five touchdowns as well with three on the ground and two in the air. Dre’Von Lee had 130 yards receiving and two touchdowns and led Isabella in tackles with 15. Noah McMinn followed with 13 tackles.

Both teams now look to take what they learned from each other in their classic battle and apply it to the rest of their 2023 schedule.