PREP FOOTBALL: Cullman dominates No. 1 Mars Hill 49-7

The Bearcats celebrate in the end zone following Jake Dueland’s first touchdown against Mars Hill Friday night. (Nick Griffin/The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – The Cullman Bearcats returned to Oliver Woodard Stadium Friday night and after celebrating homecoming throughout the week, the celebration continued on the field against Mars Hill. The ‘Cats dominated the top-ranked 2A Panthers 49-7 to improve to 4-2 on the season and used an explosive second quarter to pull away and put things out of reach early.

After forcing Mars Hill to punt on its opening possession, the Bearcats put together a scoring drive the first time they got the ball. A 6-yard touchdown run by Jake Dueland capped off the opening drive for Cullman and gave the ‘Cats a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter. The Panthers had more success moving the ball on their next possession but were stopped on fourth down inside the Cullman 10-yard line, giving the ball back to the Bearcats at the start of the second quarter.

The second quarter started with another scoring drive from Cullman that included a 28-yard completion down the home sideline from Ryan Skinner to Max Gambrill. A 1-yard touchdown run by Evan Dye came just a few plays later and the Bearcats extended their lead to 14-0 with just over eight minutes to play in the first half. That’s when the flood gates opened.

A three-and-out from the Panthers gave the ball right back to Cullman and Dueland broke loose for a 62-yard touchdown run on the first play of the ensuing drive, making it a 21-0 game midway through the second. A fumble by Mars Hill put the Panthers back on defense right away and the ‘Cats took advantage with a 4-yard scoring run by Drew Conway to stretch the lead to 28-0. A fumble on the ensuing kickoff was recovered by Dylan Sessions and Skinner scampered into the end zone from 16 yards out just two plays later to make it a 35-0 game with five minutes to play in the second quarter. Cullman scored four touchdowns in just three minutes of game time and went into the half with a commanding, 35-0 lead over Mars Hill. The Bearcats outgained the Panthers 293-50 in the first half.

The ‘Cats didn’t slow down in the third quarter. Skinner took the first snap of the second half 62 yards to the house for another touchdown and gave Cullman a 42-0 advantage at the start of the second half. Both teams exchanged punts, but the next Panthers drive was cut short when Jamar Kay intercepted a deep pass and returned possession to the Bearcats. Mars Hill was able to find the end zone early in the fourth quarter to trim the lead to 42-7 but Cullman got the points back when Tanner Gaines sprinted into the end zone from 33 yards out later in the period and wrapped up an impressive, 49-7 victory for the ‘Cats.

Skinner finished the night 3 of 4 through the air with 83 yards and added 85 yards and a pair of scores on the ground. Dueland posted 75 yards and two touchdowns on the ground as well as a 41-yard reception. Noah Kee ran for 49 yards on four carries, Dye finished with 11 yards and a score and Conway added 31 rushing yards and a touchdown of his own.

Cullman improves to 4-2 with the win and will back home next week for a regional matchup against the Decatur Red Raiders.

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