By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
GOOD HOPE —
It’d be easy to say Good Hope and Hanceville’s Class 3A, Region 7-opener was a tale of two halves, but where does that leave room for overtime?
The Raiders owned the first two quarters, and the Bulldogs took the last two, but quarterback Sebastion Fendley proved to be the difference in overtime, sprinting left for a 5-yard score to lift Good Hope to a thrilling 28-22 home win on Friday.
Fendley finished with three touchdowns, upping his season total to seven and moving the Raiders to 2-0 in the process.
“I was thinking it was all or nothing,” the senior signal-caller said of the final play. “Just put my head down, see what happened and ran.”
After Good Hope jumped out to a 19-7 lead at halftime, Hanceville seized the momentum early in the third quarter, forcing the Raiders to punt away their first possession and then eating up seven minutes, 21 seconds with a 15-play, 81-yard scoring drive.
Freshman B.J. Smalls capped off the time-consuming possession with a physical 4-yard run, standing up a Good Hope defender on his way to the end zone. Quarterback Caleb Hurst then found Dant’e Reese on a rollout to the right on the 2-point conversion to close the deficit to 19-15.
Hurst hit Kody Smith for a 37-yard bomb early in the drive, which was also highlighted by catches of 21 and 8 yards by Reese. Both clutch connections between Hurst and Reese came on fourth-down situations.
The Bulldogs were once again rolling their next time out on offense before Raider freshman Matt Cofer recovered a fumble at the 19.
A Charles Tatro sack on third-and-long on the ensuing possession left Good Hope to punt from its own end zone. Though he appeared to call for a fair catch, Hanceville’s Brontae Harris grabbed the short kick at the Raiders’ 28 and took off down the left sideline for the score. Kolby Smith’s kick put the Bulldogs ahead 22-19.
Down but not out, Good Hope got started at its 40 with 7:20 remaining and quickly charged into Hanceville territory with a 22-yard run from Jared McClure. A dropped snap put the Raiders in a long-yardage situation, but Justin Turner laid out for a 28-yard pass on third-and-23 to give Good Hope a fresh set of downs at the 6.
The Raiders eventually settled for a 23-yard field goal by Collin Harris, deadlocking the county and region rivalry at 22-all.
With 3:15 left on the clock, the Bulldogs took over at their own 38 with hopes of ending the ballgame in regulation. After an 8-yard grab by Reese set up fourth-and-2 at the Good Hope 38, Hurst barreled forward on a quarterback keeper just far enough for the first down.
Hanceville’s hopes were lifted when Hurst tossed a 12-yard out route to the left to Kody Smith but were immediately dashed when a holding penalty was called on the play. A 2-yard run by Harris later, and the clock ran out to send the contest to overtime.
In the extra period, the Raider D knocked away a potential scoring pass from Hurst to Reese on fourth down, paving the way for Good Hope to grab the win with Fendley’s 5-yard scamper just three plays later.
“They took it to us in the second half, but our kids rose up when they had to,” Raider coach Chris Moss said. “Our guys never quit. They played one heckuva ballgame. I’m proud of every one of them.
“I was telling him (Hanceville coach Danny Miller) neither team should’ve lost that ballgame. Everybody got their money’s worth tonight.”
Added Miller: “We came out and did what we wanted to do in the second half and then just couldn’t finish it down there. Our best chance to win it was in the fourth quarter, and that didn’t happen. They did a good job. We said all week we’ve got to contain that quarterback, and we let him make some plays on us. It’s tough to overcome that.”
Just like overtime, the first half was much more to Good Hope’s liking.
Zac Witcher, Alex Cofer and Austin White combined on a sack on the Bulldogs’ first drive, which resulted in a three-and-out.
The Raiders drove deep into Hanceville territory on the ensuing possession, but a cage-rattling sack by Torrey Green popped the ball out for Isaac Hardin to recover.
Just four plays later, Green ran a 9-yard sweep left to the end zone. Harris set up the touchdown with an electrifying 35-yard run.
Good Hope didn’t wait long to respond, as McClure took the following kickoff off the bounce and burst through traffic up the middle for a 92-yard score on the return. The big play came one week after the junior running back reeled off a 77-yard punt return on the Raiders’ very first touch of the season.
Good Hope’s next score was set up by a muffed punt early in the second quarter that the Raiders recovered at Hanceville’s 45. After a 28-yard pass from Fendley to Turner, Fendley turned on the jets for a 17-yard rushing score up the middle.
The Bulldogs coughed up the next kickoff, too, but kept Good Hope from capitalizing by stopping the Raiders an inch short on a fourth-and-9 try.
On its last drive of the first half, Hanceville faced third-and-5 on Good Hope’s 8 before Turner stepped in front of a Hurst pass at the 1 and returned it 99 yards for the touchdown. A block in the back negated the score, however, giving the Raiders the ball at Hanceville’s 49.
The Bulldogs forced three straight incomplete passes but were flagged for roughing the passer on the last one to give Good Hope a new set on downs. As time expired, Fendley rolled right, moved back to the left, pumped once and then threw a 36-yard heave to a wide-open Crumbley in the end zone.
Fendley finished 12 of 28 with 211 passing yards. Turner and Crumbley each had four catches. The former had 96 receiving yards, the latter 78. Chris Raper also hauled in a 16-yard pass on third-and-long.
Hanceville’s Hurst concluded the night 7 of 16 with 93 yards. Harris was the Bulldogs’ top rusher with 90 yards on 15 carries, while Green was close behind with 83 on 13. Smalls contributed 35 rushing yards, and Carlos Chacon had 31.
Reese had five receptions for 47 yards and Kody Smith the one for 37.
The Raiders will look to stay perfect on the season and in region play next Friday on the road at Winston County, while Hanceville will look to rebound when it heads home to host No. 10 Hamilton.
Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 138 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.