VESTAVIA HILLS, Alabama -- Head coach Chris Yeager knew that he was ready to get this game over with so he could have his friend back for the remainder of the season in his former defensive coordinator, now head coach Robert Evans. Evans and the Vestavia Hills Rebels created great anticipation for this game, and it didn't disappoint. The Rebels hung tough for most of the game but fell late as Mountain Brook defeated Vestavia Hills 24-14 Thursday night at Thompson Reynolds Stadium in a rivalry game between the two schools.
"We played hard, we made some mistakes, but for the first game, it was pretty clean," said Yeager. "There are things we can correct, but they probably could say that too. That is a good football team and a great high school football game tonight. Our kids showed poise and composure. We converted some big third and fourth downs on that last touchdown drive that was big for us. We have some growth on our defense. I saw our defense that kept fighting for most of the night. I've never been happier that this game is in the rearview mirror. I told Rob that we could go back and have coffee again. I love Rob Evans, and he will do a great job here at this school."
Vestavia Hills (0-1) took the kickoff and moved the ball down in Mountain Brook territory, but the Spartans defense stepped up on fourth down, stopped the Rebels offense, and gave the ball back to the Spartans. Defensive lineman Parker Avery made the stop for the Spartans defense. On the Spartans first drive, running back Cole Gamble made some big runs to get the Spartans offense deep into Rebels territory. With 3:33 left in the first quarter, Reed Harradine connected on a 28-yard field goal, and Mountain Brook led 3-0 late in the first quarter.
After the Rebels went three and out after the Spartans scored, Mountain Brook was on the move again. This time running back Jack King made some big runs, and the Spartans had the ball at the Rebels 4-yard line as time expired after the first quarter. On the first play back in the second quarter, Mountain Brook fumbled, and William Cox fell on the ball for the Rebels and escaped another Mountain Brook score. Vestavia Hills took over and moved the ball down the field, but the drive was stopped on fourth down at the Spartans 25-yard line.
Mountain Brook took over the ball and drove 75 yards for a score. Sanderson made a big catch, a Will Waldrop long-run setup a Spartans score. With 4:46 left in the second quarter, John Colvin hit Sanderson on a 21-yard touchdown pass play, and the Spartans led 10-0 late in the second quarter.
The Rebels took the ball right before halftime and marched down the field. A William Tonsmeire big run, a Jay Daniels catch, and a Warren Ainsworth catch set up a Rebels score. With only:11 seconds left in half, John Paul Head found Keown Richardson in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. With the score, Vestavia Hills cut the lead to 10-6 and took some momentum going into halftime.
In the second half, Mountain Brook took the ball and drove the ball down the field. Catches by Sanderson and a Jackson Beatty big catch down to the Rebels 3-yard line gave the Spartans first and goal at the three. On the next play, with 9:56 left in the third quarter, Gamble scored on a 3-yard run, and Mountain Brook took a 17-6 lead.
Late in the third quarter, Mountain Brook was driving again, but defensive back Jonathan Downey picked off a Spartans pass and gave the ball back to the Rebels. Starting at their 10-yard line after the interception, Head began connecting with his receivers, and the Rebels moved the ball. Two big catches by Cooper Mollison set up the Rebels touchdown. With 11:56 left in the fourth quarter, Head kept the ball around the right end, broke a couple of tackles, and raced in the end zone for a Rebels touchdown on a 44-yard run.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Mountain Brook took the ball and moved it again down the field. A King long run, a Sanderson catch, and a Gamble long run setup another Spartans score. With 7:16 left in the game, Colvin found Rob Gillespie in the back of the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown pass, and the Spartans led 24-14. Vestavia Hills kept moving the ball, though deep in Spartans territory, defensive back Tucker Crawford picked off two Rebels passes to turn away final drives for Vestavia Hills.
In the game, Head completed 21-for-34 passing for150 yards, a touchdown with two interceptions, and a rushing touchdown. Colvin completed 13-of-18 passing for 175 yards and two touchdowns. Gamble rushed for 71 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown, while King had 60 yards on 16 carries.
Next, Vestavia Hills will host Homewood, while Mountain Brook will host 7A James Clemens.