MIDDLE SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Vinemont topples Good Hope 30-22 to win County Championship

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Vinemont’s Kayden Henderson (7) led the Eagles with 154 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in their 30-22 win over Good Hope Tuesday night. (Martha Needham/The Cullman Tribune)

GOOD HOPE, Ala. – This year’s county middle school football season is in the books and after edging the Good Hope Raiders 30-22 in Tuesday night’s championship game, the Vinemont Eagles are your Cullman County Champions. The Eagles secured the win after Kayden Henderson intercepted a pass at the goal line on the final play of the game to end a potential game-tying Good Hope drive.

After taking his Gatorade bath, Vinemont Head Coach Ed Webb talked about how proud he was of his team for the way they’ve played this season and the way they honored the memory of their fallen teammate with a county title on his birthday.

“This all started in June. These guys had a purpose in playing this season. We lost a great kid in Christian Hart and we dedicated this whole season to him. Win, lose or draw, this season was for him,” Webb said. “So, they showed toughness, they dug deep, and Christian was our angel. That’s what we used to get us through this whole season. So, I can’t take the credit for this. Those guys are just tough and again, they had an angel on their shoulders. Christian is who they played for.”

Vinemont scored on its opening possession of the game when Rush Sandlin punched one into the end zone from 7 yards out to give the Eagles an early 6-0 lead. The Raiders responded with a methodical scoring drive of their own, capped off by a powerful, 20-yard touchdown run from Landon Bagwell that tied the game at 6 early in the second quarter. The tie wouldn’t hold for long, because on the first play of the ensuing Vinemont drive, Henderson broke free and sprinted down the sideline for a 54-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion gave the Eagles a 14-6 lead with just over five minutes remaining in the half.

Good Hope was forced to turn the ball over on downs on its next drive, giving possession back to Vinemont but the Eagles weren’t able to move the chains either and they went into the locker room at the halftime break leading the Raiders 14-6.

Good Hope got off to a rocky start in the third quarter. On the opening play of the period, a Raiders’ pass was picked off by Sandlin and Vinemont took over possession near midfield. Just a few plays later, Henderson ran in his second touchdown of the night from 20 yards out and the two-point conversion made it a 22-6 game early in the second half. Good Hope answered with another long scoring drive that ate up most of the third quarter and cut the lead to 22-14 with a 1-yard touchdown run by Bagwell to make it a one-possession game going into the fourth.

The Eagles were clicking on offense for most of the game and they put together another touchdown drive to start the fourth quarter. Sandlin dove in from a yard out to score his second touchdown of the evening and extend the lead to 30-14 with three and a half minutes to play. However, the Raiders answered immediately when Brayden Cooper fielded the ensuing kickoff and ran it back 75 yards for a touchdown. The two-point conversion was good and Good Hope was back within a score at 30-22.

Vinemont’s Cheston Wilhite recovered the ensuing onside kick attempt from the Raiders and the Eagles took over with just over three minutes to play. Good Hope was able to use its timeouts and muster the stop it needed to force a punt from Vinemont. Henderson’s punt sailed down to the Raiders’ 18-yard line and Good Hope’s offense took the field with 1:31 to play and a chance to tie the game.

Cooper started the drive with a 12-yard run to move the chains and later hit Caden Drake down the field for 36 yards to get the Raiders into Vinemont territory. Another first down run from Cooper got Good Hope in striking distance with just a few seconds on the clock but Henderson intercepted the pass at the goal line, sealing the 30-22 win and this year’s county championship for the Eagles.

Henderson finished with a game-high 154 yards and two touchdowns on the ground to go along with the game-winning interception. Sandlin added 43 yards and a pair of rushing touchdowns in the win as well. Bagwell led the Raiders in rushing with 55 yards and a pair of touchdowns while Cooper and Tucker Malin added 44 and 43 yards on the ground respectively.

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