Zachary Campbell accounted for all three of Hanceville's touchdowns in the Bulldogs’ 18-14 win over Fairview Monday night. (Nick Griffin for The Cullman Tribune)
HANCEVILLE – The Cullman County Middle School Football Championship game was the main event in Hanceville Tuesday night and the two teams on the field did not disappoint. The (4-3) Fairview Aggies made their way to Ray Talley Stadium to take on (6-0) Hanceville and the Bulldogs found a way to finish their season as county champions and undefeated with some late-game heroics.
Fairview quarterback Caden Hall slipped multiple Bulldog defenders on a 40-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 12 with less than a minute to play. Hall connected with Miguel Gonzalez on the 2-point conversion to go up 14-12. Two plays into Hanceville’s ensuing possession, quarterback Zachary Campbell burst through the Aggie defense for a 39-yard touchdown with just 24 seconds remaining in the game to secure the county title for the Bulldogs. Campbell accounted for all three of Hanceville’s scores in the win.
After the game, first-year Bulldogs Head Coach Braxton Pitts talked about his team’s mindset going into their final possession.
“We just reiterated what we’ve talked about all year. Each game, each play, it’s 0-0,” Pitts said. “I just told them that again and let them know that it should be almost routine for us to drive down and score each time we line up.”
Hanceville had just 49 yards of offense at halftime and Pitts knew his Bulldogs would have to make some adjustments in order to keep up with the Aggies.
“At halftime we knew that we had to put some of our best on their best no matter where they line up or what formation they’re in,” he said. “It really didn’t matter how we lined up, we knew it would be a slugfest until the very end, and they do a great job at Fairview. I think that they represent the county very well.”
When asked what the key has been for the Bulldogs’ consistent success this season, Pitts had a quick response.
“I think it’s the little things,” Pitts said. “At the beginning of the year we had what many would call a ‘come-to-Jesus’ meeting about socks being inside-out and it’s all those kinds of things that add up and lead to what we’ve been able to accomplish. We’re trying to be successful in football and in life.”
Hanceville struck first early in the second quarter when Campbell scooped up a bad snap that went over the head of Fairview quarterback Hall and took it 45-yards the other way for a 6-0 lead. Fairview responded on the ensuing possession with a time-consuming drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown run from Eli Frost that tied the game at 6 going into the halftime break.
Both teams combined for just 128 yards of offense in the first half.
The physical, defensive struggle continued into the third quarter until Campbell hit his wideout, Brosnan Ward, in stride down the sideline for a 66-yard touchdown that put the Bulldogs up 12-6 late in the third.
Despite being held out of the end zone for a lot of the night, Fairview was able to move the ball effectively on the ground. Aggies running back Jameson Goble led the game with 122 yards on 23 carries, but it was the legs of the quarterback Hall that made the big play late in the game for Fairview. With less than a minute to play in the fourth quarter, Hall ran through and evaded several Hanceville defenders to score from 40-yards out. A pass from Hall to Gonzalez on the ensuing 2-point try put the Aggies up 14-12 with 47 seconds remaining.
Unfortunately for Fairview, Campbell had one more big play left in him for the Bulldogs. On the second play of the next Hanceville drive, Campbell broke through the line and sprinted past the Aggie defense to take an 18-14 lead and ultimately secure a 7-0 finish to the season and the county title. Campbell finished the night 3 of 5 for 98 yards and a touchdown through the air and added 51 yards and a touchdown on the ground to go along with his defensive touchdown earlier in the game.
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