PREP FOOTBALL: Dueland’s late score lifts Bearcats over Hartselle

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Cullman’s Max Dueland stretches the ball over the goal line to give the Bearcats a 15-10 lead over Hartselle with six seconds remaining in the game. (Joe McElroy for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – It was another typical showdown between Cullman and Hartselle at Oliver Woodard Stadium Friday night as the Tigers and Bearcats took every second on the game clock to decide a winner. It was a low-scoring affair that Cullman led just 3-0 at the half before its offensive front and running game took over in the fourth quarter and helped pave the way to a dramatic, 15-10, victory. After falling behind 10-3 with just over eight minutes to play, the ‘Cats rallied to score twice in the latter half of the fourth quarter, punctuated by a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Max Dueland with just six seconds to play. Hartselle’s ensuing Hail Mary attempt fell incomplete and Cullman collected its first win over the Tigers since 2013.

The Bearcats struck first with a 30-yard field goal by Brody Adams that made it 3-0 midway through the first quarter and Cullman’s defense kept it that way for the rest of the opening half. Field position was huge and special teams plays were a big factor throughout the game. Tanner Heatherly pinned the Tigers inside their own 1-yard line with a beautiful punt early in the second quarter, but Hartselle made up for it by blocking Cullman’s next punt. The Bearcats forced the Tigers to attempt a field goal and when the kick fell short of the end zone, Sam Brand caught and returned it all the way out to midfield. After the big special teams stop, Cullman went into the locker room with a 3-0 advantage after two quarters.

Hartselle managed to get on the board with a 21-yard field goal after a long drive to start the third quarter and the score was knotted at 3 going into the final period. The Tigers were the first to find the end zone, taking a 10-3 lead on a 2-yard scoring run early in the fourth, but it was all Cullman the rest of the night.

The offensive line and three-headed backfield of Dueland, Jayden Sullins and Jaylen Hughey took control of the game and after Hartselle’s go-ahead score, Sullins broke free for a 41-yard touchdown run on the ensuing possession. However, the extra point was wide left and the Tigers maintained a 10-9 lead. Cullman’s defense was able to get off the field yet again and get the ball back to the offense with just over three minutes to play. The Bearcats converted a fourth-and-1 on their own 34-yard line on a Dueland keeper and proceeded to methodically work their way down the field, largely on the legs of Sullins.

With the clock running down to the final seconds, Cullman took a timeout before calling another quarterback keeper on the 1-yard line that Dueland stretched over the pile to give the ‘Cats a big, 15-10 win over Hartselle.

Cullman Head Coach Oscar Glasscock is very familiar with this matchup, having been on both sides of it, and was thrilled for his senior class who had never beaten the Tigers.

“I’ve been on both sides of it. I was a defensive coordinator at Hartselle for five years and I still know some of those guys and they’ve played some great football for a lot of years, but man I just love it for the seniors,” Glasscock said. “They kind of stuck it out and this hasn’t really been a rivalry. Cullman has to win for it to be a rivalry, so hopefully it’s a rivalry again.”

The offensive front was huge in this win for the Bearcats, especially in the second half, and that’s the way Glasscock wants to win games.

“I think the one thing I wanted to do when I came here is reestablish the offensive line at Cullman,” Glasscock said. “You’ve got tough kids here and we want to lean on them and I think we just wanted to send the message that we were going to win with the offensive line and not take any chances otherwise.”

The win wraps up the third spot in the region for the Bearcats and they’ll be gearing up for round one of the state playoffs after next week’s final regular season matchup at home against Fort Payne.

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Nick Griffin

nick@cullmantribune.com