With his team trailing 24-22 at the end of the third quarter, Wetumpka quarterback Tyquan Rawls took charge, throwing a touchdown and scoring one on the ground to spur a 13-0 fourth-quarter run to seal a 35-24 victory over Class 7A No. 10 Fairhope.
Rawls, who also intercepted Fairhope quarterback Riley Leonard late in the game, had 293 total yards of offense and accounted for four scores. He was 13-of-19 for 167 yards and three touchdowns through the air, while rushing for 126 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
“He played like a champion and a warrior,” Wetumpka coach Tim Perry said.
Wetumpka (1-0) jump started its season with a 94-yard kick return from Malik Davis on the opening play of the game to put the Indians ahead 7-0 after just 14 seconds.
“They were already very excited and then to run it back like that, it was really ecstatic,” Perry said. “It was really fun to watch their faces and their reaction as a coach. We’d love to start every game that way.”
Alexander Lindoll’s 28-yard field goal made it 10-0 before Fairhope answered on a Leonard 1-yard touchdown run. Bobby Noel’s 34-yard field goal tied the game. Rawls connected with Davis from 20 yards out as Wetumpka reclaimed the lead at 16-10.
The Indians took a 22-10 lead in the third quarter on a Rawls 12-yard touchdown pass to Timothy Johnson before Fairhope closed within five on Cyline Koen’s 7-yard touchdown run. Fairhope took the 24-22 lead on Leonard’s second touchdown of the game, a 6-yard run.
“We’re a relatively young team and with it being the first game of the season and going back and forth, you wonder as a coach if we’re going to stay confident and stay focused,” Perry said. “I’m really proud of the fact that we battled back.”
Wetumpka would not go down without a fight. Rawls threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Jaleel Johnson to take the lead back before his 34-yard touchdown run with 3:24 to go in the game helped seal the victory.
Leonard finished 14-of-19 for 201 yards but he was intercepted three times, and the Pirates had four turnovers overall. To go along with Rawls interception, Hezekiah Nowden and Lamarius Jackson each added an interception. Nowden also recovered a fumble forced by Terrance Thomas on the opening kickoff of the second half.
“As the old cliché goes, we bent but we didn’t break,” Perry said. “They hit some plays on us but we came up with some big stops and some big turnovers. Those plays swing the momentum.”
Jaleel Johnson led the Indians with 99 receiving yards on six receptions while Davis added 64 yards on five catches. Wetumpka outgained Fairhope, 406-318.
Caleb Turrentine contributed to this report.