CULLMAN, Ala. — With a playoff berth guaranteed, next up for the Cullman Bearcats was a matchup with the Muscle Shoals Trojans for seeding in AHSAA Class 6A, Region 8. The Bearcats used a game-winning field goal from Brody Adams in the final seconds to edge the Trojans 30-29 and secure a home playoff game in the opening round of the state playoffs.
Cullman won the toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff. That proved to be a wise decision as Brodie Malcom caught the ball at the 17-yard line and 83 yards later had a touchdown. With 11:47 left in the first quarter Cullman held a quick 7-0 lead.
After one Trojan first down, Jaden Kay intercepted Muscle Shoals quarterback Luke Peoples and Cullman was quickly back in business at the Muscle Shoals 39-yard line. After a holding penalty against the Bearcats and facing a fourth-and-four, Jamar Kay was stopped short on the run and the Trojans took over on downs.
After swapping punts, the Trojans won the field position battle when A.J. Cherry returned another Cullman punt to the Cullman 24-yard line. Aided by an offside penalty against Cullman, the Trojans scored a touchdown on a 5-yard run by Brooks Berry. With 2:07 left in the first quarter the game was tied 7-7.
On the ninth play of Cullman’s ensuing possession, quarterback Max Dueland attempted a pass to Kaleb Heatherly that looked to be incomplete when the pass was deflected. Being in the right place at the right time, Isaiah Jones snatched the deflection out of the air and completed the 27-yard touchdown play. With 9:36 left in the first half Cullman got the lead back 14-7.
During the next Muscle Shoals drive the Trojans were not to be outdone as a pass from Peoples was deflected by Cullman and Cherry caught the ball on the deflection for a first down. Five plays later Peoples completed a 25-yard touchdown pass to Bentley Basden and with 4:54 left in the first half the game was tied at 14.
Both teams were unable to score anymore points and the first half ended with the score locked at 14. Cullman had 117 total yards compared to 137 total yards for Muscle Shoals. Cullman’s special teams score kept the game tied.
Both teams traded punts to start the third, but the Trojans got into field goal range on their second series of the half. Muscle Shoals lined up for a 40-yard field goal and the lead but Cullman’s Cody Lynn got his hands on the ball and Jaden Kay scooped it up and ran it all the way back for a 70-yard touchdown. With 2:00 left in the third quarter Cullman lead 21-14 even though Cullman had only run three offensive plays when the third quarter came to an end.
On the Trojans next drive that extended into the fourth quarter, a 45-yard pass from Peoples to Dontaviaus Pritchard put the Trojans deep in Cullman territory. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Peoples connected with Cherry for a 9-yard touchdown pass. Muscle Shoals tied the score at 21 early in the fourth quarter.
After two major penalties against the Bearcats, the punt would come from their own end zone. Jones returned the punt 28 yards and the Trojans were set up at the Bearcats 17-yard line. Five plays later Muscle Shoals capitalized on the great field position when Berry ran in from 5-yards out. Muscle Shoals surprised Cullman and successfully completed a 2-point conversion. With just 6:58 left in the game the score was 29-21 Muscle Shoals.
It would take a Cullman touchdown and successful 2-point conversion to at least tie the game. In the second half to this point, the Bearcats had only run five plays and had two major penalties. Muscle Shoals looked to continue its second half dominance to close out the win.
A penalty against the Trojans gave Bearcats decent field position at their own 45-yard line. Driving to the 35-yard line of Muscle Shoals, Cullman was faced with a fourth-and-7 from the Trojans 35-yard line. Max Dueland completed a 10-yard pass to Jones for the first down. To keep the suspense going, five players later Cullman faced another fourth down. Needing 11 yards to keep the drive alive Max Dueland dropped back to pass. Facing a lot of pressure, Dueland continued to give up ground and just as it looked as if the drive would end, Dueland threw the pass of the night. Not only did he throw the ball 34 yards where Jake Dueland was wide open to catch the ball for a first down, He threw the pass completely across the field, from one sideline to the other over both teams. Two plays later, Max Dueland scored on 1-yard quarterback sneak. With only 1:32 left in the game the score was 29-27 Muscle Shoals.
Cullman needed to convert the 2-pooint conversion to tie the game and possibly force an overtime game. Max Dueland’s attempted pass was batted down by the Trojans and all Muscle Shoal had to do was cover the obvious onside kick that Cullman would attempt.
Cullman got a high bounce on the kick and it looked as if it was going out of bounds and the Trojans would take over and run out the clock. Just before going out of bounds, Jaden Kay got his hands on the ball and the ball ended up back in the field of play. Malcom fell on the ball and the comeback continued.
Taking over at Muscle Shoals 28-yard line, Cullman needed to protect the ball and give their field goal kicker at least a chance to win the game. The Bearcats were lining up to run another play at the 4-yard line when the clock became a factor. With four seconds left before the clock ran out and Cullman not ready to run a play, Coach Oscar Glasscock of Cullman quickly called timeout.
With the ball at the 4-yard line and four seconds left in the game, the field goal attempt would be from just 21 yards out. Brody Adams didn’t miss the ball and field goal was good as time ran out. The Bearcats won a hard-fought game in dramatic fashion and overcame a second half deficit with their offense not being effective in the third quarter.
Max Dueland ended the game with 58 yards on 14 rushes while completing five of his nine passes for 67 yards.
Having beaten Muscle Shoals, Cullman would have the tie-breaker against the Trojans, is the second seed in the region and will host a first-round playoff game in two weeks. Another region foe will travel to Oliver Woodard Stadium next week when the ‘Cats face off against the Columbia Eagles.
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