Cullman quarterback Max Dueland (2) scrambles away from a Mortimer Jordan defender. (Joe McElroy for The Cullman Tribune)
CULLMAN – Ground and pound was the setup to Cullman’s aerial attack in the first half from quarterback Max Dueland, as he connected twice for long touchdown throws to Ezra Burks and Jayden Sullins to give Cullman (Class 6A, Region 7) the lead quickly over Mortimer Jordan (Class 5A, Region 5). However, a second half burst by the Blue Devils bested the Bearcats 18-16, dropping Cullman to 1-1 on the season.
Sullins started the game with five consecutive runs before the Bearcats were forced to punt. However, Coach Matt Plunkett had a few tricks up his sleeve as Cullman’s Jimnie Chau Le took the direct snap on a fake punt, scrambling down to the Blue Devils’ 32-yard line and giving new life to the team. Sullins continued to be the workhorse on the initial drive, but another strong defensive stance by Mortimer Jordan forced Cullman into another fourth down.
This time it was Dueland airing it out to Burks for a 25-yard touchdown pass to give Cullman the 7-0 lead after the PAT with 7:45 remaining in the first quarter.
The Bearcats stopped the running attack on the Blue Devils’ first drive and smothered the passing lanes to force Mortimer Jordan to punt it away. A roughing the kicker call reset the downs as the Blue Devils reclaimed field position at the Cullman 43-yard line. Following a negated 43-yard touchdown pass, Mortimer Jordan’s QB sprinted down the sideline to tie the game after the extra point 7-7 with just 45 seconds off the clock in the second.
Following a couple possessions, Cullman’s Carter Lindsey came up with a big fumble recovery at the Bearcats 45-yard line, breathing new life into the team. On a long third-and-15, Dueland took off for a big first down at the Blue Devils’ 45-yard line, keeping the drive alive, but it proved fruitless as Mortimer Jordan took over following a punt.
A late turn of events forced the Blue Devils into a fourth-and-11 from its 19-yard line resulting in a high snap and a safety, giving the Bearcats a 9-7 lead with less than a minute left in the half. A strong return by Sullins set Cullman up at the Blue Devils’ 47-yard line with 35 seconds left to play in the first half and Plunkett on the hunt for another score before the half.
Dueland connected with his brother Jake Dueland for a large 18-yard pick up before Max Dueland fired a bullet to a wide-open Burks for an easy walk-in 29-yard touchdown pass, to put the Bearcats up 16-7 following the successful extra point attempt, with just 10 seconds left in the half.
The second half was sloppy on both sides of the ball for both teams, with the only scoring drive coming from Mortimer Jordan. The Blue Devils ate up a lot of clock, scoring on a third-and-goal from the 1-yard line to bring the score to 16-15 after completing the 2-point conversion with 4:41 left in the third quarter.
Following multiple turnovers and fumbles, Mortimer Jordan began to move the ball down the field despite a variety of penalties. A big fourth-and-14 from Cullman’s 41-yard line came from the Blue Devils QB as he scrambled for first down to Cullman’s 27-yard line with 5:52 remaining and trailing 16-15.
The Bearcat defense stood strong following the fourth-down run, holding Mortimer Jordan back, but a long third-and-13 was completed at Cullman’s 9-yard line setting up the Blue Devils deep in scoring territory with less than four minutes left in the game.
A second-and-goal from the Cullman 6-yard line only allowed a hard 2-yard gain, forcing a third down. The Bearcat defense gang tackled Mortimer Jordan, forcing the Blue Devils to decide to go for it or kick a field goal from 19-yards out. The Blue Devils chose the latter, nailing the field goal to give them the late 18-16 win.
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