Former Alabama running back Trent Richardson, center, poses with the Vinemont Eagles prior to Friday night’s game. (Ryan Guthery for The Cullman Tribune)
VINEMONT– It was a packed crowd for homecoming with special guest, former Crimson Tide standout and current Birmingham Iron running back Trent Richardson, on the Vinemont sidelines. The hometown crowd had a lot to cheer about as the Vinemont Eagles won a barnburner against the visiting Bulldogs from Hanceville, 22-14.
Vinemont received the opening kickoff and began driving down the field with ease, but 12 plays later the drive stalled on fourth down inside the red zone. The long drive by the Eagles, plus excellent defense, left the Bulldogs punting from their own 13-yard line. The Eagles got an excellent rush to block the punt and Dalton Whitehead pounced onto the loose ball in the end zone resulting in an Eagle touchdown, giving them a 6-0 lead with 6:03 left in the opening quarter. On the ensuing Bulldog possession, a 65-yard run by Hanceville running back R.J. Evans set the Bulldogs up first-and-goal at the 10-yard line. After a few short gains, the Bulldogs faced a fourth-and-goal from the 6-yard line where Whitehead intercepted the ball, killing the Bulldogs drive.
The Eagles began their second drive backed up at their own 6-yard line, but a huge 53-yard completion from Jack Hill to Teague Whatley on third down kept the Eagles’ drive alive. Several plays later, Hill found Dustin Moore, again on third down, who fumbled the ball into the end zone but had the poise to stay with the play and dive on the ball for a touchdown, putting the Eagles up 14-0 with 9:33 to go until halftime.
On Hanceville’s next possession, a 51-yard touchdown pass from Bo Joles to Antonio Bautista on fourth down cut the Eagles lead to 14-6 with 6:58 in the quarter. Both teams combined for three straight three-and-outs, giving the Bulldogs one last chance for a drive to tie things up headed into the locker room. With 1:15 left in the first half, Joles found Fred Ellis for a 60-yard touchdown to tie the game at 14.
Vinemont couldn’t find a rhythm on offense to start the second half, going three-and-out on four of its six second-half possessions. On the other hand, the Bulldogs managed to move the ball but couldn’t find the end zone due to two costly interceptions, one by Moore and the other by Dallin Dinkle.
Late in the fourth quarter, Hanceville was driving and elected to try a fake punt, but the Eagles weren’t fooled, stopping the Bulldogs short and taking the ball back. Once again, the Eagles went three-and-out, but once again the defense stepped up to force a three-and-out of its own, giving the Eagle offense one last shot at a game-winning drive.
After not being able to do much on offense the entire second half, the Eagles managed to find the end zone with 42 seconds left in the game when Hill hit Hudson Wood for a 33-yard touchdown giving Vinemont a 22-14 lead. Hanceville had one last chance, but on fourth down the Eagles gang sacked the quarterback as time expired, giving the Eagles a hard-fought 22-14 homecoming victory.
After the game, Vinemont Head Coach Stephen Robinson gave all the credit to the kids and assistant coaches for a good job all year.
“We are trying to change the culture of supporting each other, and that’s a slow process, but it’s coming along and getting better,” Robinson said. “The crowd support is awesome, the student section, cheerleaders and band are doing an awesome job.”
Vinemont, now 2-2, will look to stay on the winning side of things when the Eagles travel to face Addison next week, and the Bulldogs, now 1-4, will try to bounce back when they host the Curry Yellow Jackets.
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