Tigers secure chance at playoffs with win over 10th-ranked Hatton

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Tigers Lee Gober (63), Brad Hill (30) and Chris Ashley (24) kneel during Red Bay’s final offensive drive of the night in hopes the Tigers could pull out a win. News photos/Jason Collum

RED BAY – There has never been an adjective made up that could completely describe Red Bay’s 42-39 win over Hatton Friday night. The word dramatic may be pretty close though.

The Tigers have secured a chance at the playoffs for the first time since 1991 with the 42-39 win over the Hornets. And they did it in style.

As expected, Hornet Jason Veal had an outstanding night. So did Red Bay’s Steven Patterson, Eric and Jack Tabbs, Jamie Martin, Michael Cannon, Jamie Purser and the entire offensive and defensive lines.

Patterson

It was Patterson who can be credited with leading the Tigers to 403 total yards of offense. It was also Patterson who pulled the Tigers out of some very serious fourth-down situations, such as the one late in the fourth quarter that assured the Tigers of getting into scoring position to take the lead.

Red Bay head football Coach Greg Cash, now riding a five-game win streak, was as happy as a kid at Christmas with the win over Hatton. In fact, it may have been an early Christmas gift from the Tigers to their coach.

“‘This was the game we wanted,” a breathless, almost exhausted Cash said. “This was a big one and we’re just so excited right now.”

Cash said the Tigers had definitely earned this huge win.

“‘These boys went through hell last year with a 1-9 record,” he said. “We’ve turned it around and now we’re 8-1 with a shot at the playoffs. but we’re not there yet.”

Cash knows now that his team is definitely not a team that gives up when the going gets tough.

“These kids didn’t quit,” he said. “We got down 12 points in the third quarter and won by three points.

“They (Hatton) are a good team,” Cash said, stressing the word good. “The thing is, it was all about who had the ball last, and we had it. We got the ball with a little more than four minutes left in the game and we thought we could go ahead and score.

“We had a couple of fourth-down plays that were tough, but Steven Patterson sucked it up and got the job done.”

Cash also said running back E. Tabbs has been tending to a bruised thigh, along with a few other players who are suffering from bumps and bruises. He said they had worked hard to get Tabbs ready for the game Friday night.

Obviously, they were just in time. It was apparent from the get-go the Tigers were in for a tough 48 minutes. Red Bay was only able to move 14 yards on its first possession before being forced to punt.

Hatton struck quickly as on the Hornets’ first play Veal look the ball 77 yards for a score. The PAT gave them a 7-0 lead with 6:23 in the first quarter.

Red Bay was not going to stand around and watch Hatton run away with the game, though. On the first play of the ensuing drive, Patterson connected with Martin on a 62-yard pass to set the Tigers up at the Hatton 11-yard line. After a carry by E. Tabbs, J. Tabbs carried the ball in from the 10 with 2:40 to go in the first. Purser’s PAT went wide left, but the Tigers had cut the Hornets’ lead, 7-6.

Hatton turned right around and scored again on a ten-play drive. This time it was on a five-yard keeper by quarterback Chris Yarbrough. The PAT attempt failed, giving them a 13-6 lead.

Red Bay tied the game at 13 on a 33-yard run by E. Tabbs with 5:03 left in the half. Purser’s PAT evened things up.

Enter Hatton’s Veal again. On the very next play of the game, Veal broke five tackles to take the ball 71 yards for a score. A completed conversion attempt put the Hornets ahead 21-13.

But not for long. Red Bay took the kickoff on its own 42 and moved to the Hatton 18 in eight plays. Patterson, facing third-and-13 and finding no one open, scrambled 18 yards for the score with 40 seconds left in the half. It was Cannon who caught the conversion pass in the endzone to take the Tigers into the half with a 21-21 tie.

Hatton almost dealt Red Bay a lethal blow in the third quarter. The Tiger defense, try as it might, was just unable to stop the Hornets on their first drive as they moved the ball 91 yards in 15 plays to score. Also assisting the Hornets on this drive were 29 yards of Tiger penalties.

Red Bay’s Mark Ivey has his knee checked out after coming out of the game against Hatton.

The Tigers refused to let Hatton get the PAT though as mishandled snap was quickly taken care of by Tiger Brad Thompson. With 6:18 left in the third the Hornets were up 27-21.

Red Bay fell behind by 12 points just a few minutes later as a bad punt snap gave Hatton the ball at the Tiger 10. The Hornets capitalized on the error in one play. Yarbrough sneaked it in, and after a failed conversion attempt, Hatton was up 33-21.

Never giving up, the Tigers marched the ball 72 yards in 11 plays to score. It was Patterson again who put the Tigers in prime scoring position as he rambled 30 yards on a second-and-ten situation to set Red Bay up at the Hatton 16. Five plays later, E. Tabbs ran the ball three yards around right for the score. Purser’s PAT brought the Tigers to within five, 28-33, to end the quarter.

Hatton took the ball on its 44 to begin the fourth quarter, but a penalty on second-and-ten pushed the Hornets back to their 34. The Tiger defense held strong, forcing a Hatton punt.

Red Bay took the ball on its 32 and moved 12 yards before a Patterson-to­Purser connection gave the Tigers a first down, and a facemask penalty against the Hornets gave the Tigers excellent field position.

From there, it only took Red Bay four plays to score. Again, it was E. Tabbs who scored. The conversion attempt failed, but with 7:52 left in the game the Tigers had taken their first lead, 34-33.

Hatton answered this on its next drive. Aided by 30 more yards of Tiger penalties, the Hornets were able to hit paydirt on a three-yard leap by Veal. The conversion attempt failed, but Hatton had what seemed to the winning points on the board with a score of 39-34 with 4:58 left in the game.

Cash believed his team had what it would take to win, and starting at their own 29-yard line, the Tigers knew they had a huge job in front of them. Red Bay moved the ball 51 yards in eleven plays on runs from the Tabbs brothers to get to the Hatton 20, but it looked like the drive had stalled as Hatton had Red Bay stopped, facing a fourth-and-seven situation.

Then, there was some magic.

Patterson, under pressure, zigged and zagged through the Hornet defense to give Red Bay a first down at the two-yard line. An attempt by J. Tabbs to score was stopped one-yard shy by Hatton, but they wouldn’t stop Patterson. He dove on in behind the blocking of his line for the score.

Patterson would again lift the Tigers as he ran in the conversion to take a 42-39 lead. 

With 35 seconds left on the clock, though, the Tigers knew Hatton still had a chance to score. Red Bay prevented the Hornets from taking away the moment and held Hatton as the clock ticked down.

Tommy Thompson, center, hugs his son, Brad Thompson, after the Tigers’ win over Hatton.

Hatton’s Veal ran for more than 200 yards in the first half, but an alert and fighting-mad Tiger defense held him to only 44 yards in the second half to take control of the game.

Red Bay now faces Colbert Heights Friday night. The Wildcats, who are carry a 4-5 record, are coming off a huge 21-7 win over rival Central-Florence.

Even though he had just defeated the team standing between him and a chance at the playoffs, Cash is still wary of things to come. Also, being unranked with an 8-1 record seems to not bother him.

“I don’t care if we’re ranked,” Cash said. “We’d rather slide in like a snake and get the job done.”

Before Cash took off to the field house to celebrate with his team, he had one more thing to say.

“I tell you what,” he said. “This is a lot of fun.”