PREP FOOTBALL: Late score lifts Jasper over Cullman 20-16

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Cullman’s Jake Dueland (9) cuts past a defender in the Bearcats’ 20-16 loss at Jasper Friday night. (Nick Griffin/The Cullman Tribune)

JASPER, Ala. – After shutting out Grissom at home in their season opener, the Cullman Bearcats hit the road Friday night to travel to Jasper for a rivalry showdown with the Vikings. The game was tight and heated for all four quarters, but a pair of turnovers and 125 penalty yards were too much for the ‘Cats to overcome and Jasper sent the black & gold home with a 20-16 loss.

After punting on its opening drive, the Bearcats took the ball back after Dylan Sessions pulled down a leaping interception on the Vikings sideline. Cullman then struck first just before the end of the first quarter when Nate Zills knocked through a 34-yard field goal to put the Bearcats in front 3-0.

Jasper and Cullman traded punts after that but midway through the second quarter, the Vikings took a 21-yard sprint up the middle all the way to the house and took a 7-3 lead over the Bearcats with just over four minutes remaining in the first half. The ‘Cats were forced to punt again, and Jasper got one more toss to the endzone before time expired, but the Cullman defense knocked it down and the Vikings went into the locker room with a 7-3 lead over the Bearcats at the break.

The ‘Cats received the opening kickoff of the second half, but their drive was stopped short after a fumble gave possession to Jasper. However, Cullman struck again on its next possession when Quarterback Ryan Skinner hit Kaleb Heatherly with a 19-yard touchdown pass. After the missed extra point, the Bearcats led the Vikings 9-7 late in the third quarter. The ‘Cats defense forced another quick punt, and the offense took advantage immediately with a 54-yard touchdown run by Tyler Owens that stretched the lead to 16-7 with less than two minutes to play in the third.

Jasper was able to take advantage of some big plays on the ensuing possession and capped off a scoring drive with a 2-yard touchdown run that cut the lead to 16-14 at the start of the fourth quarter. The Bearcats were forced to punt soon after, but the black & gold defense stood tall once again and forced another punt from the Vikings with just under eight minutes left to play. Cullman drove the ball deep into Jasper territory, chipping away at the clock in the process, but the Bearcats were stopped short on a 4th and inches play inside the Viking 10-yard line, giving Jasper one more chance to take the lead.

The Vikings opened up with a big pass play and collected more yardage on the ground to move in the red zone. That’s when from near the 20-yard line, Jasper ran a double pass in the backfield and a Vikings receiver hauled it in one with one hand at the goal line to score and put Jasper in front 20-16 with less than two minutes on the clock. The 2-point conversion was no good and there was still some time left for the Bearcats to try and answer but a fumble on the ensuing kickoff wrapped up a 20-16 win for the Vikings.

Tyler Owens racked up 163 rushing yards and a touchdown on 14 carries in the loss. Jake Dueland added 26 yards on the ground to go with 54 yards receiving and Skinner finished 6/7 with 94 yards and a touchdown. Skinner also posted 43 yards on the ground. Cullman will regroup and aim to bounce back next week against another rival when they host Hartselle.

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