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TCHS wins thriller over Hillcrest in game’s final seconds


Tuscaloosa County's Tylan Perry runs the ball against Hillcrest Friday night at TCHS in Northport. (Photo by Kelly Lambert)


NORTHPORT | One minute was all it took for Tuscaloosa County High School to steal the game from Hillcrest, 17-14, as Tyler Gates’ touchdown pass decided another Wildcats win in the Class 6A, Region 5 game.

Gates connected on a 52-yard touchdown pass to Tamerson Smith to retake the lead, only a minute after Hillcrest went ahead 14-10 when Austin Williams caught a 54-yard touchdown pass from Riley Nix with 1:39 left in the game.

“We finally were able to hit a big play on them and get ahead, maybe it was just a little too quick,” Hillcrest coach Scott Martin said of the loss.

Gates, who completed 2 of 6 passes on the drive before finding Smith on the left side of the field, said he just got lucky.

“I thought it was going to be an interception,” Gates said. “I was just throwing it out, trying to make something happen.”

Though TCHS coach Lee Gibson was happy to see the Wildcats finish with a win, he was disappointed in missed opportunities in the game.

“It should have never come down to that,” Gibson said.

After ending the half tied 7-7, the Wildcats came within one yard of a touchdown in the third quarter before Emiliano Ramirez kicked a 13-yard field goal, followed by a missed field goal attempt in the fourth. 

“It shouldn’t have come down to this situation, but our kids fought though it,” Gibson said.

In the second quarter, Jertavious Sanders caught a 42-yard touchdown pass from Nix to open the scoring for Hillcrest before Gates scored a 6-yard touchdown run to even the score at half, 7-7.

“Words can’t describe how big of a rivalry that is,” Gates said. “It’s been going on for I don’t know how many years. They’ve got us the past two years, and we go back and tried to get them at our place. We did what we had to do to win.”

Martin spoke highly of the Wildcats defense, saying that the upset would be tough to swallow for Hillcrest.

“We don’t want anymore character losses,” Martin said. “We’re going to have to rebound because we’re going to have to win next week to get in the playoffs.”

The game marks seven straight wins for the Wildcats (7-1, 7-0 in Class 6A, Region 5), who will host No. 1 Hoover at home next week. Hillcrest (4-4, 3-3) will visit Minor.