PREP FOOTBALL: Cullman’s final drive falls just short in 23-16 loss at Muscle Shoals

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The Cullman Bearcats fell to Muscle Shoals on the road 23-16 Friday night. (@CullmanCats)

MUSCLE SHOALS, Ala. – After collecting a region win over Columbia at home last week, the Bearcats were back on the road Friday night for a regional battle at Muscle Shoals. Like a lot of Cullman’s game this season, this one came down to the final possession and unfortunately for the black and gold faithful in the stands, the Bearcats finished on the wrong end of another nail-biter, 23-16.

The ‘Cats and Trojans exchanged punts to start the opening quarter, but Muscle Shoals got on the board first with a 33-yard touchdown pass, making it a 6-0 game with just under five minutes remaining in the first quarter. A Bearcats fumble on the ensuing possession set the Trojans up with a short field and this time they scored on the ground to stretch their early lead to 13-0. However, the rest of the first half belonged to the black & gold.

Cullman picked up big gains on a screen pass to Tyler Owens and a deep ball to Nate Zills on its next drive, setting them up deep into Muscle Shoals territory. A few plays later, Owens punched it into the end zone from a yard out to cut the Trojans lead to 10-7 early in the second quarter. The momentum continued to shift toward the Bearcats when their next punt went off a Muscle Shoals player and was recovered around the 30-yard line of the Trojans. Zills knocked through a 40-yard field goal a few plays later to make it a 13-10 game and the ‘Cats went into the locker room trailing by just three.

Cullman continued to put points on the board when the third quarter started, taking advantage of a quick Muscle Shoals turnover with a 48-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Skinner to Zills, giving the Bearcats their first lead of the night at 16-13. Neither team could find the end zone again in the third, but the Trojans scored on a touchdown pass early in the fourth to move back in front 20-16. The ‘Cats were forced to punt the ball away with around nine minutes on the clock and Muscle Shoals capped off the ensuing possession with a field goal to make it a 23-16 game with just under five minutes left to play.

Cullman drove the ball past midfield and converted a fourth and 10 with a 20-yard pass to Zills to keep the drive going with less than two minutes remaining. However, facing fourth and goal with just over a minute to play, Skinner’s pass intended for Zills fell incomplete and the Bearcats’ final drive came up just short.

Cullman drops to 6-3 with the loss and will finish up the regular season next week at Etowah.

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