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October 6, 2012

PREP FOOTBALL ROUNDUP: Britton, Bearcats still riding Friday-night high

Bailey takes over Redding’s record for most QB wins in Aggie history

CULLMAN — A 26-year drought versus Russellville came to an end, coach Mark Britton earned his 100th win with the Cullman football program and arch-rival Hartselle lost for a second straight week.

What a great Friday night for the Bearcats.

Needless to say, the bus was rocking on the Black and Gold’s 1.5-hour drive back home. And why wouldn’t it after No. 10 Cullman made a gutsy defensive stop on a 2-point conversion at the 1-yard line to walk away with a knee-knocking 21-20 overtime victory.

“I’m just real proud of our kids. They knew everything was on the line, sucked it up and got after it,” Britton said. “They were beat up and exhausted but really in such a big way that you’re proud for them as coaches. That’s a big reward for us to see the kids excited, enjoying the success.”

The night didn’t start as well as it finished for the Bearcats (5-1), who found themselves down 14-0 early on in the second quarter. Quarterback Zac Crocker hit Troy Forrest on a 12-yard touchdown pass shortly before halftime, though, to give Cullman just the spark it needed.

“I think our kids gained a lot of confidence from that right there,” Britton said. “We played a lot better in the second half. We were more aggressive and kept coming up with big plays.”

But no play was bigger than the last.

After Garrett Crider opened the overtime period with his second 2-yard touchdown run of the night to give the Bearcats a 21-14 lead, the Golden Tigers’ Bud Coleman responded with a rushing score from the same distance.

Instead of going for the point-after attempt, however, Russellville (4-2) decided to go for the win.

The Golden Tigers took advantage of an offside penalty to start their 2-point conversion at the 1, but the Cullman defense held strong, guessed run the entire way and forced a fumble to seal the victory over their Class 5A, Region 8 rival. Britton said he was pretty sure that Michael Skinner was the Bearcat who came up with the loose ball.

“Coach (Matt) Hopper did a good job,” Britton said of his defensive coordinator’s strategy for that last play. “We sold out to stop the run right there. If you don’t commit to something, you won’t stop anything.”

Administrators, fans and players were ecstatic to see Britton reach 100 wins on Friday night, but the coach had already moved on by the very next day. Instead, he’s got his sights on the rest of Cullman’s region schedule, as well as the playoffs, which the Bearcats are in good shape to reach after last night’s  win.

“I’m sure it’s going to be good down the road when I reflect back on it,” Britton said of his milestone. “But at this time of year, you’re really just too busy to enjoy it.”

Top-ranked Muscle Shoals defeated No. 4 Hartselle 28-21 on Friday night to take complete control of the region at 4-0. Cullman and Hartselle are right behind at 3-1, while Russellville and East Limestone are both 2-2.

With a marquee matchup against the Trojans waiting for the Bearcats in Week 9, Britton acknowledged it’s not safe for his players to look too far ahead. Cullman will host Lawrence County for homecoming next Friday and then travel to Athens the following week.

“I still think if you get complacent, you can get in trouble in our region,” the coach said. “We want to keep the kids grounded.”

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