PREP FOOTBALL: Bearcats bounce back with 21-14 win at Decatur

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The Cullman Bearcats toppled Decatur on the road Friday night 21-14. (Jennifer Lovoy/The Cullman Tribune)

DECATUR, Ala. – On a beautiful night for high school football, the Cullman Bearcats made another trip north to take on the Decatur Red Raiders in a critical region matchup. The Bearcats were able to step up defensively and hold the Red Raiders out of the end zone in the final minutes of the game to secure a 21-14 victory.

Light rain made the crowd a little damp before the game started. Skies cleared as Cullman kicked off to Decatur. Cullman’s defense held the Red Raiders to three plays, forcing Decatur to punt.

The Bearcats took over on their own 36-yard line and proceeded to march down the field. Using a good running attack, Cullman overcame a fourth down play to keep the drive going. Jackson Sessions scored on a three-yard touchdown run. The PAT was no good and Cullman took the early lead with 5:54 left in the first quarter 6-0.

Penalties on Decatur and Cullman’s strong defense again forced the Red Raiders to punt. Cullman took over on their own 12-yard line at the end of the first quarter. Overcoming a holding penalty, Cullman seemed to be driving again.  Decatur’s Chandler Moore intercepted Tanner Gaines’ pass at the Decatur seven-yard line stopping Cullman’s drive.

Cullman’s defense once again rose to the occasion and forced Decatur to punt again.  Both teams were plagued with penalties that stopped promising drives.

On Decatur’s second drive of the second quarter, the Red Raiders started on their own 29-yard line.  It only took the Red Raiders five plays to go the 71 yards and tie the game. Quarterback Bradin Dupper threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Rhys Dorsey. The PAT was good, and Decatur took a 7-6 lead with 2:17 left in the first half.

Both teams were unable to mount any drives and the first half ended with Decatur leading 7-6.

Cullman received the second half kickoff at their own 35-yard line and began an impressive drive deep into Decatur’s end of the field. On the seventh play of the drive, the Red Raiders forced Larry Turner to fumble, and Decatur recovered on their own 26-yard line.

The Red Raiders marched 74 yards and scored their second touchdown when Dupper hit Dorsey for their second touchdown on a 28-yard touchdown pass. With 5:53 left in the third quarter, Decatur led Cullman 14-6.

Cullman took the ensuing kickoff at their own 32-yard line. Aided by two pass interference calls against Decatur, Sessions scored on a two-yard run to close the gap on the scoreboard to 14-12. Going for two to try and tie the game, Gaines connected on successful two-point conversion with Wyatt Buchanan and the ball game was tied 14-14.

The fourth quarter was one of the most exciting quarters folks had seen in a long time. There were only two drives in the quarter as both teams used ball control to try and win the game. Cullman started the quarter on their own 32-yard line and began the fourth quarter. Hard running by Turner and Sessions and timely passing by Gaines kept the drive going.  A three-yard run by Sessions kept the drive going on a fourth down play. The 12-play 68-yard drive was completed when Sessions scored his second touchdown of the half and the PAT put the Bearcats ahead 21-14 with 5:23 left in the game.

Decatur took the ensuing kickoff on their own 33-yard line, 67 yards away from trying to tie or win the game. Multiple penalties against the Red Raiders seemed to end the drive on several occasions. Each time Decatur overcame the penalties to keep the driver alive. 12 plays later, the Red Raiders were knocking on Cullman’s goal line from the two-yard line. There were 47 seconds left in the game and Decatur seemed poised to at least tie the game as they faced a fourth down.

Both teams utilized time outs to try and get their best efforts on the field. Everyone was standing as Decatur wanted to gain two yards for the score. Dupper kept the ball and Cullman stopped him for a one-yard gain and preserved a 21-14 victory.

Next week Cullman will host Lee High School from Huntsville.

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