PREP FOOTBALL: Bearcats handle Grissom 23-0 in season opener

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Cullman’s Tyler Owens (23) scores a 35-yard touchdown early in the Bearcats’ 23-0 win over Grissom Thursday night. (Nick Griffin/The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – The Bearcats kicked off the 2021 season at Oliver Woodard Stadium Thursday night and are off to a 1-0 start after handling the Grissom Tigers 23-0. Quarterback Ryan Skinner tossed a pair of touchdowns and ran in another to lead the way for Cullman offensively and on the defensive side of the ball, the ‘Cats held the Tigers to less than 150 total yards on their way to a season-opening shutout win. Cullman’s victory was also highlighted by a halftime performance that included a ceremony to honor Cullman High School senior band member Will Fowler who passed away Tuesday.

The Bearcats took the opening kickoff and capped a long, game-opening drive with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Skinner to Tyler Owens on a fourth down play that put Cullman on top 7-0 after the extra point from Nate Zills. A third down sack by Jake Dueland forced the Tigers to punt and neither team got on the board again in the opening quarter.

The ‘Cats were able to get more points on the board early in the second quarter. Skinner completed a fourth down pass on Zills on the sideline to move the chains and just a few plays later, Zills drilled a 43-yard field goal with plenty of leg to spare and put the Bearcats on top 10-0. The Tigers were forced to punt again, and Cullman got the ball back with just under a minute remaining in the half. The Bearcats picked up enough yardage to get into field goal range but ran out of time before getting a kick off and went into the locker room with a 10-0 lead at the break.

Cullman forced another punt from the Tigers to start the second half but a fumble by the Bearcats gave the ball right back to Grissom a few snaps later. However, the Tigers were unable to take advantage of the turnover and the ‘Cats maintained a 10-0 advantage going into the fourth quarter after an interception by Dylan Sessions stopped another Grissom possession early.

Cullman was forced to punt at the start of the final frame but a quick three-and-out from the black and gold defense put the ball back in the offense’s hands. The Bearcats took chunks out of the Tigers’ defense on the way down the field and Skinner capped off another scoring drive with a 2-yard touchdown run to make it a 17-0 game with 7:35 play in the fourth quarter. After another quick punt from Grissom, Cullman put things out of reach when Skinner connected with Dueland deep down the field for a 42-yard touchdown and stretched the lead to 23-0 with six minutes remaining. The ‘Cats held the Tigers out of the endzone the rest of the way to preserve the shutout and went on to collect their first victory of the season over Grissom 23-0.

Skinner completed 7/11 passes for 147 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Skinner also added 45 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Owens led the Bearcats with 66 yards on the ground and caught a 35-yard touchdown pass as well. Dueland posted 21 yards rushing on five carries and caught two passes for 51 yards and a touchdown. Zills led Cullman with three catches for 38 yards.

The Bearcats will be on the road next week and looking for a big win when they travel to take on Jasper.

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