Rain dampens Cullman, Cats fall to Hartselle

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Joe McElroy

HARTSELLE – It’s that time of the year again across the South.  The air fills the senses with the nostalgia we Southerners hold so dear.  Hot dogs sizzling on the grill, the laughter of children tossing a pigskin on the grassy knolls, the lights kicking on at dusk, all paint the perfect autumn night picture here in Cullman County. We take our football seriously down here.

This is where the Cullman High School 2016 football season embarks, as the Bearcats traveled to perennial rival Hartselle to take on the Tigers.  JP Cain Stadium served as the arena for these two heavyweights to begin their hopeful championship runs.

Hartselle took the ball first to open the game but their offense sputtered against a stingy Bearcat defense and they were forced to punt the ball away. Cullman opened their drive with an absolutely explosive, double headed running attack from quarterback Fletcher Jennings and running back Ezra Burks, as they drove down the field and capped the drive with a field goal to give the Cats their first points of the year and a 3-0 lead.

On the next drive, Hartselle’s standout running back Jordan Stover began his unbelievable night with a 41-yard run. This was followed immediately by consecutive passes by quarterback Trevor Oakes to wide receiver Garrett Wade.  Stover then punched it in, from 4 yards out, with 1:53 left in the first quarter. Hartselle took the lead, 7-3, as the sky began to cry.

With 9:11 left in the second quarter, and conditions worsening, Hartselle drove back down the field and took a 14-3 lead with a 6-yard pass from Oakes to Wade for the second time of the night. Cullman responded with a long march down the field, where Jennings connected with Burks in the end zone to bring the Bearcats within a touchdown of the Tigers, 10-14, with just :06 left in the second quarter.

Cullman’s Davis Winn seemed to spark the team with an interception but the weather and penalties began to plague Cullman’s offense causing them to stall on the next several drives. With 1:25 left in the third quarter, the Tigers increased their lead as Oakes connected for the third time with Wade, this time on a 6-yard fade route to the corner of the end zone. The PAT was no good, with Hartselle settling for a 20-10 lead.

In the fourth quarter, Cullman seniors Caden Winn and Ross Crocker both snagged passes from Jennings to set up a 2-yard touchdown rush from Burks with 6:40 left in the game, pulling the Bearcats to within three, 20-17.  However, Hartselle quickly answered as Stover racked up 56 yards in the next three carries, including the final 31-yard TD run with 3:57 left in the game, putting the game all but out of reach with Cullman dropping the game, 27-17 to Hartselle.  Stover finished with 211 yards on the ground.

Although disappointing for Cullman, several beacons of light did shine through the night. Jennings proved he is a dual threat QB, with over 200 yards of total offense, combined with a stout offensive line led by 3-star commit to the Crimson Tide, Hunter Brannon.  Cullman looks to rebound next week as they welcome North Jackson to Oliver Woodard Stadium.

 

All photo credits to Joe McElroy

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