PREP FOOTBALL: Cullman falls to Jasper on the road

Cullman's Jaylen Hughey (6) runs the ball during the Bearcats' 21-19 loss at Jasper Thursday night. (Joe McElroy for The Cullman Tribune)

JASPER, Ala. – The No. 3-ranked Jasper Vikings opened the season with a 21-19 victory over rival Cullman Thursday night at Ki-Ro/Gambrell Field. The win marked the first time since 2010 the Vikings earned a defeat over Cullman, and it was the first win against the Bearcats in a home game since 2004. The win also gives Jasper the edge in the overall series at 35-34-2.

“It is something special to beat Cullman,” Jasper coach Bryan Moore said. “I know what this rivalry is about and how much it means to the kids and the community. You take those wins any way that you can get them. I hope we keep this game going for a long time, because this rivalry is a lot of fun.”

The Vikings dominated on the stat sheet with 372 total yards compared to 285 for Cullman. Jasper finished with 148 yards on the ground, while throwing for 224 yards. The Jasper defense gave up two big plays, but otherwise kept the Bearcats in check for most of the game. Harrison Saunders and Taris Rudolph led the defense with 10 tackles each. Kevon Samuel and Sheldrick Cherry has interceptions on the night. Jayden Vance, Jacob Danner and Kaedyn Marchbanks each had seven tackles.

“After not finishing the game last year, we did what we had to do this year to come out with a win,” Moore said. “We have a lot of stuff to work on, and we have to get better. We didn’t execute very well on offense for much of the night and we gave up the big plays on defense. We had a couple of chances to put them away, and we fumbled the ball, which isn’t like us.”

The Jasper running game only had 24 yards on the ground at halftime, but the senior duo of Kaden Shelton and J.C. Collins bounced back in the second half to finish with strong performances. Shelton ran for 74 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries while also finishing the night with one touchdown pass for 41 yards. Collins ran for 78 yards on 21 carries.

Parker Sawyer, the new starting quarterback for the Vikings, has an efficient night, throwing for 183 yards and a touchdown on 17-of-22 passing. Xavier Waldrep led the receivers with four catches for 64 yards and a score, while Denzel Chatman picked up 48 yards and a touchdown on three catches.

Jasper opened the scoring on the night when Shelton hit Waldrep on a 41-yard halfback pass with 9:28 left in the second quarter. Preston Reed connected on the point after to give Jasper a 7-0 lead. Cullman answered late in the first half when Max Dueland connected with Isaiah Jones on an 83-yard pass. The point after try failed after a fumbled snap, which gave Jasper a 7-6 lead at halftime.

Jasper opened the second half with a long drive that saw Shelton cap it with a 14-yard run to give the Vikings a 14-6 lead. Jasper also opened the fourth quarter with its last score of the night when Sawyer hit Chatman on a 16-yard pass. The Vikings were up 21-6 with 11:24 left in the game.

The Bearcats would not give up, scoring two fourth quarter touchdowns. An interception by Samuel late in the game sealed the win for the Vikings.

Jasper will now have a bye week before returning to action in week three of the season when they host Dora in a Class 5A, Region 7 matchup. Cullman will now travel to Mortimer Jordan next week.