GARDENDALE — Coach Keith Dabbs has been known to carry on conversations with reporters on the sideline during football games.
About halfway through the third quarter of Tabernacle Christian’s season opener against Hope Christian, he turned and said, “I’m running out of players.”
One of his best backs, sophomore Austin Hamlett, was dinged up and sat out the second half. His quarterback, junior Caleb Lindsey, was wearing out and making poor decisions that often led to turnovers.
In the end, Hope’s size and speed held up while Tabernacle’s didn’t, and the visiting Eagles came from two touchdowns down to win 41-36 in eight-man action Friday night at Gardendale’s Bill Noble Park.
A combination of turnovers and tackling issues led to the Torches’ downfall.
“At any level of football, you can’t turn the ball over, but in eight-man it’s a killer,” said Dabbs, who’s back as the head coach for Tabernacle after serving as an assistant under his son Wayne, who left after two seasons to take a coaching position in metro Atlanta.
“On three drives we wide-open tackles, unblocked. If we made the tackle on any of those, we had a chance to win.”
Actually, the Torches had a chance to win until the very end. Down 41-30 lead with 2:20 left in the game, Tabernacle struck quickly with two quick, long passes from Caleb Lindsey to Tristan Castro, who was tackled six inches from the goal line on the second catch. Lindsey scored on the sneak with 99 seconds left, but the subsequent onside kick was unsuccessful, and the Eagles made a first down to run out the clock.
The Lindsey-to-Castro combination was the most effective weapon for the Torches throughout the game. The pair connected on six passes, including two for touchdowns, for a total of 191 yards.