By Johnny Sanders Jr.
TRUSSVILLE — The Vestavia Hills Rebels walked into Hewitt-Trussville Stadium on Friday night looking to put a damper on Homecoming and get to 5-1 on the season while also making the road to the playoffs a true uphill climb for Hewitt Trussville.
And that is exactly what Vestavia Hills did in a 19-14 classic that sent the Huskies tumbling to 4-3 on the season.
“I am really proud of your effort tonight,” Hewitt-Trussville head coach Josh Floyd could be heard telling his players after the loss.
As the first couple of minutes of the first quarter ticked away, you would have thought that this was going to be a high-powered, offensive football game as Vestavia Hills drove the ball down inside the Hewitt-Trussville 10-yard line; however, the Huskies’ defense tightened up and held Vestavia Hills to a Brantley “Wells” Watts field goal that put the Rebels up 3-0 early in the first quarter. Both defenses stifled their opposition for the remainder of the period, including the final play of the quarter that saw Vestavia Hills running back AJ Powell run for minus 35 yards.
The second quarter started much like the final nine minutes of the first quarter with the defenses playing well and the offenses finding it hard to gain any footing. After a booming punt by the Rebels’ Watts, the Huskies found themselves backed up inside their own 5-yard line. Hewitt-Trussville quarterback Cade Carruth attempted to field a high snap and bobbled it, allowing the ball to fall to the ground. He had no choice but to fall on it and take the safety.
Carruth passed for 142 yards on 15-of-20 passing with two touchdowns.
The Rebels were now up 5-0 with 5:30 left in the second quarter. Vestavia Hills would attempt to go up by two scores on the ensuing drive, but on first and 10 at their own 44, Hewitt-Trussville linebacker Samuel “Trey” Johnson III would pick off Vestavia Hills quarterback Eli Sawyer to end the drive.
The Huskies would drive the ball to the Rebel 9-yard line in a drive that included a 10-yard gain on fourth and 6 from the 38. Carruth would then hook up with fullback Matthew Walter Miller for a score with no time left on the clock. The home team went into the locker room with a 7-5 lead.
The defenses continued to steal the show in the third quarter with Vestavia Hills holding the Huskies scoreless for the entire period. The only score in the third quarter came when the Rebels’ Eli Sawyer found receiver Peyton Walraven on a 40-yard touchdown pass that put Vestavia Hills up 12-7 with 4:38 left in the period. Each defense would pitch a shutout for the remainder of the third quarter.
Heading into the fourth quarter, Vestavia Hills had the ball and was looking to put the nail in the coffin. With 11:37 left in the game, Sawyer called his own number on a first and goal from the Hewitt 3-yard line and punched it in to give the Rebels a 19-7 lead. After a three-and-out on the next offensive drive, the Huskies needed a big stand by their defense and they got just that, holding Vestavia Hills to a three-and-out and a punt, giving Hewitt-Trussville the ball back at their own 25.
The Huskies drove the ball down the field and with 4:54 left in the game, the Carruth-to-Miller connection struck again on a 31-yard touchdown pass to keep the Huskies in the game and make it 19-14. The Hewitt-Trussville defense then forced Vestavia Hills to punt on the following possession with just over a minute left to play. Hewitt-Trussville marched the ball down the field with a good mix of hard runs and quick passes, but on a first and 10 from the Rebels’ 28, quarterback Jackson Holland’s pass was intercepted by Vestavia Hill’s Sam Willoughby to end the game.
“We can’t give up on this season, men,” Floyd said as he addressed his team after the game. “We need to win every game and we might need a little help on the way.”