HANCEVILLE – Making plays on both sides of the football in the fourth quarter was the key to carry the Hanceville Bulldogs to a thrilling 28-22 victory over the Vinemont Eagles Friday night at Ray Talley Stadium.
The offense took control when the Bulldogs broke a tie, taking the ball 50 yards to the end zone on a 32-yard run by B.J. Smalls with 4:26 to play in the contest. Smalls went to the right side of the defense, got good blocking from his linemen and went against the grain for this third touchdown on the night.
Hanceville's defense made plays when they needed to. Kaine Yates and R.J. Evans got to Vinemont quarterback Garrett Boland on the final play of the game, forcing him to fumble the football when the Eagles had it at the Hanceville 22-yard line, looking to get a tying touchdown and winning the 3A, Region 6 game with a conversion.
The Hanceville defense did allow Boland to throw for 124 yards in the final period, but they forced a fumble, stopped another series on downs and then came up with the defensive play of the night to put them at 1-1 in the regional standings and 2-2 on the season.
Hanceville is tied in regional play with Holly Pond and Locust Fork while J.B. Pennington has a 2-0 regional record and Fultondale 1-0. Susan Moore is 0-1 with Vinemont now 0-2 in back-to-back regional games.
Holly Pond edged Susan Moore 34-28 Friday night with J.B. Pennington winning 28-26 against Locust Fork in a battle of undefeated teams. Fultondale was the odd team out of regional play for this weekend.
Hanceville got on the scoreboard first by controlling the opening period with 97 yards of offense to just 26 for the Eagles. A 65-yard drive that started late in the first period, carried into the second with Evans scoring on a 10-yard run at the 10:29 mark. Brenan Hurst threw to Yates for a 2-point play and an 8-0 lead for the Bulldogs.
Then the Vinemont offense went to work, going 74 yards and taking almost 8:00 of time to do so. The running game featuring Boland and tailback Cody Stewart controlled the series with only one pass completion of nine yards to Seth Campbell.
The drive ended when Boland ran around left end from the 7 and added the 2-point conversion to get the game even at 8-8 with 2:50 remaining in the half.
Hanceville tried to take the ball back downfield, but failed when the Bulldogs turned the ball over on downs to the Eagles at the Hanceville 44-yard line with a minute still to go until halftime.
Boland, who threw three straight incompletions, found his touch with a 28-yard swing pass to Campbell and a 16-yard TD to tight end Nate England. Hanceville was called for a face mask on the conversion that moved the ball inside the 2, giving Boland a chance to take it in and put the Eagles ahead 16-8.
It looked like Hanceville was going to tie when Tre Martin ran 80 yards down the left sidelines on the kickoff. But a late flag came out near the 50, nullifying the score as Hanceville was called for a block in the back.
The Bulldogs left the field frustrated and down 16-8, knowing they needed to correct their mistakes of having eight first-half penalties for 53 yards.
Vinemont botched the kickoff, allowing Hanceville's Cameron Barbee to recover the ball at the Eagles' 42. The Bulldogs would drive it into the Vinemont end zone on a 24-yard run from Smalls. They missed the conversion and trailed 16-14 with less than 90 seconds gone into the third period.
The Eagles were forced to punt, but Hanceville fumbled the ball, letting Vinemont set up at the Hanceville 29. The Eagles turned the ball over on downs due to a defense that dropped them for -3 yards on the series.
Hanceville had possession at its 32 and engineered a drive that put the Bulldogs back in front.
Romael Simmons' first carry of the third resulted in a 21-yard run to the end zone. Evans tacked on the 2-point play and Hanceville led 22-16 at the end of the third stanza.
Both teams fumbled on their first series of the fourth quarter. Then after the Eagles got great position, taking a punt from their 44, they drove it downfield and watched Boland find himself free for a 37-yard scoring run.
The chance for the Eagles to take the lead failed on the conversion with Boland getting stopped short of the end zone. The game was tied at 22-22 with 6:28 to go in the fourth quarter.
Simmons returned the kickoff to midfield and set up Hanceville for the go-ahead score. Smalls executed the run and wound up with 208 yards rushing and three touchdowns. The last was a 32-yard jaunt and the Bulldogs jumped ahead 28-22 in the see-saw affair with 4:26 to play.
Vinemont got a huge kickoff return from Colby Nicholas, giving the Eagles a first down at the Hanceville 48. But the drive ended when they were stopped on downs at the Hanceville 16 with 1:26 showing on the clock.
Having their timeouts, Vinemont used them and forced Hanceville to give up the ball. The Eagles again had great field position, with a first down at the Hanceville 47 and a minute on the clock without any timeouts available.
Boland connected on a 40-yard pass to Nicholas that gave the Eagles a first down at the Hanceville 22 with four seconds left. Boland then got the clocked stop by an incomplete throw with a second remaining.
The left-hander was never able to get the ball downfield as he was pressured by Yates and Evans, who forced him to fumble at the 20-yard line as time ran out.
Hanceville survived Boland and 152 yards of Vinemont offense in the final 12:00 to enjoy the thrill of victory with rookie coach Craig Flanigan at Ray Talley Stadium for the first time.
The Bulldogs gained 333 yards of total offense, 16 first downs, with 304 yards on the ground. After having eight penalties in the first half, the Bulldogs cleaned it up with no flags against them in the final half.
Vinemont gained 286 yards, 181 by passing from Boland. He shook off a -2 performance in the third quarter with 128 yards on seven completions in the final period of play. Nicholas had two catches for 55 yards, England one for 23 and Cameron Carter three catches for 61 yards.
Now J.B. Pennington comes to Hanceville next week, looking to stay undefeated overall and in the region. Hanceville is playing with a lot of momentum, knowing they will have to have an all-out effort to defeat the school from Blountsville.
Vinemont will look to regroup with a trip to Fultondale in regional action.
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