By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
Danny Miller knows all too well what led to Hanceville falling at the hands of county-rival Good Hope last season in a 34-27 showdown.
“I remember the turnovers,” the Bulldog head coach said. “I know that much. You turn the ball over, and you’re going to find a hard time winning that week. When we did turn it over, Good Hope did a great job at capitalizing on them.”
The Raiders took advantage of five Hanceville turnovers — including four in the second half — to erase a 21-13 halftime deficit and hand the Purple and Gold its second straight loss to start the 2012 season.
This year, however, began on a positive note for Miller’s squad, as it defeated Fairview 35-33 last week to get off on the right foot entering Friday’s clash between the two rivals.
And while most people were using their Labor Day to unwind, the Bulldog players were up and about at 7 a.m., soaking up game film and trying to correct their mistakes from Week 1.
“We’ve certainly got plenty of things to work on,” Miller said. “They were very attentive and focused. Getting them to be that way is a lot easier after a win than it is a loss.”
One thing Miller hopes can improve is his defense. The unit yielded 454 yards to the Aggies and was, at times, torched by Hayden Maples, who finished the game 19 of 24 for 334 yards.
It won’t get any easier, either, as Hanceville will need to corral another dynamic signal-caller in the form of Sebastian Fendley.
The Raider quarterback was a boss against Holly Pond last Thursday in a 61-14 rout, making several plays both with his arm and feet. He even added in a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown just for good measure.
Both he and junior running back Jared McClure present a big-time challenge for Miller’s squad.
“It’s going to take a tremendous effort from us as far as containing their quarterback,” Miller said. “He does a really good job in that offense. So does their running back.
“We don’t go into the game thinking we are going to shut them down completely, but we’ve got to be able to contain them to a certain extent to have a chance to win.”
While Miller and his coaching staff go about their business in preparation for Friday’s contest, junior wide receiver/defensive back Brontae Harris is ready to suit up and play right now.
Harris vividly remembers last year’s turnover-fest and hopes to correct what he believes was — and still remains — a wild misconception as a result of that tough loss.
“It was bad last year,” Harris said. “We thought we were going to go out there and beat them, but we didn’t play well enough to do that.
“I’m real anxious to play them again and prove to them that they aren’t better than us and that they weren’t better than us last year, either. All the buzz around town is Good Hope’s the best team in the county and blah, blah, blah. I’m just ready to prove that we are the best, not them.”
The Bulldog speedster got his season off to a fine start against the Aggies, rushing for 119 yards on just nine carries. He also scored what proved to be the game-sealing touchdown on a 56-yard scamper around right end.
Regardless of the outcome on Friday, Miller knows his team has quite an early season gauntlet as they prepare to take on the Raiders and then Hamilton in Week 3, both crucial Class 3A, Region 7 matchups for the Bulldogs.
“Our kids realize the task before them,” Miller said. “We are probably playing two of the better teams in the region over our next two ballgames.”
% Extra Point: While Good Hope may have its own flashy quarterback in Fendley, the Bulldogs retaliate with one they believe is just as good — Caleb Hurst.
The signal-caller certainly began his senior campaign with a bang last Friday, finishing 5 of 7 through the air for 153 yards and three touchdowns. He also added another score on the ground with a 2-yard sneak in the first quarter.
Hurst said he was ready to go out and do battle with his fellow pigskin-tossing counterpart.
“Yeah, it’s two great quarterbacks,” Hurst said. “It’s kind of like ‘Let’s see who’s better.’”
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at email@example.com.