Ted Melton/ ActionSportsPix.SmugMug.com
Spain Park Football
Spain Park's Damon Wright (5) in a game between Spain Park and Thompson on Thursday, October 6, 2016, at Larry Simmons Stadium in Alabaster, Alabama.
ALABASTER – Through two quarters at Thompson High School’s Larry Simmons Stadium, the Spain Park defense simply showed up.
In the second half, it showed out.
Highlighted by Damarius Farmer’s 97-yard pick six and a stifling performance up front, the Jags’ defense pitched a second-half shutout that propelled the team to a pivotal 17-14 victory over its Class 7A, Region 3 foe.
“I told them if they didn’t believe we could win that game to stay in there,” Spain Park head coach Shawn Raney said of his halftime speech. “ ‘If you believe, let's go out there and get it done.’”
Spain Park believed.
After surrendering 14 points and 223 yards in the first half, the Jags’ defense held Thompson to only 52 yards in the second half.
Farmer’s interception return for a touchdown, which came early in the third quarter, swung the momentum permanently in his team’s favor. Following the play, Spain Park’s defense closed out the game by posting drives that culminated in two punts, a missed field goal and a turnover on downs.
“That’s going to change how we play and how we come in with energy, because that’s what coach Raney was talking about,” Farmer said. “He stressed energy, focus and respect, and we came out there and played just like that.”
The Jags also played with resolve – a key ingredient to their state final run a season ago.
Twice, they could have wilted.
Farmer’s interception return came on the play directly after Jags quarterback Braxton Barker threw a pick on the third play of the third quarter. Already up 14-7, Thompson possessed the ball facing first-and-10 from Spain Park’s 12-yard line. A Warrior touchdown, it seemed, was eminent.
But Farmer had other plans.
“I was thinking I had to fight, I had to make a play for my team,” he said. “I did not want to lose this game.”
Neither did Damon Wright.
The senior defensive end came through with two key sacks on Thompson’s final possession. Down 17-14 with three minutes to play, the Warriors wanted to concoct a game-winning drive.
But Wright, along with the entire Spain Park defensive line, said no.
“The D-line, we were talking, and we were like, ‘Hey, we’ve got to step up and make a big stop in the last drive because we can win this game,” Wright said.
The Jags proceeded to sack Thompson quarterback Caleb Ragland on first, second and third down, which resulted in an 18-yard loss. Pinned at the 2, the Warriors had no shot on fourth-and-38.
“We’re going to come blitz and take our chances,” Raney said. “You cover them when you sack them.”