By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
Winfield looked a whole lot better than Hanceville on Friday — for all of 12 minutes.
Once the Bulldogs put the pedal to the metal in the second quarter, though, they never let up, riding a huge rushing night by Brontae Harris and a monster defensive effort to overpower the Pirates 27-7.
“I’m just proud of the guys, the way they came out and fought,” Purple and Gold coach Danny Miller said. “We knew we were going to get the best Winfield had. I’m glad it’s over with.”
Harris went berserk in the ground game for 175 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries. The junior superstar scored on runs of 1 and 5 yards in the first half and reached the end zone again in the second on an 87-yard rumble up the middle of the field.
After proving he could run just fine, Harris completed a 25-yard pass to Dant’e Reese just for good measure in the fourth quarter. On the play, Harris took the pitch from quarterback Caleb Hurst, scooted a bit toward the right sideline and then threw it up to Reese, who went vertical and pulled down the ball over a Winfield defender.
“It was a good feeling,” Harris said of the trick play. “I’ve been waiting all year to run that play, and we finally ran it. I knew with Dant’e, all you do is throw it up. He’s taller than most cornerbacks, and he’s just going to go up and get it. And that’s what he did, made a big play.”
Later in the drive, Torrey Green refused to be tackled on a 14-yard run that accounted for Hanceville’s final touchdown. Green concluded the evening with 76 yards on 14 carries. One week after a four-score ballgame, Carlos Chacon ran five times for 23 yards, most coming on a key 16-yarder in the first half.
“I wanted to have a good game,” Harris said of leading the team’s stable of runners. “I wanted to step up for our backs because we have three backs for a reason. If they aren’t performing good, they’re having a bad game or something like that, I can step up and do it, too.”
Added Miller: “He (Harris) had a great ballgame tonight, and that’s the thing about it — it’s not one guy every week. We’ve got some guys who can step up, and he’s the guy who stepped up tonight.”
As good as the Bulldog offense proved to be, its defensive counterpart was even better. The unit touted 12 total tackles for loss, three sacks, and two forced and recovered fumbles to record its second second-half shutout in as many weeks.
The Purple and Gold D’s lone lapse came on a 75-yard scoring connection between Dawson Dean and Mason Osborn on the first play of the Pirates’ second possession.
Hanceville never let Winfield get into any sort of offensive rhythm in the third and fourth quarters, limiting the Pirates to a mere 64 yards and Dean to minus-3 rushing yards on nine carries in the second half.
Senior defensive end Charles Tatro was responsible for two sacks, while junior Blake Purifoy accounted for the other. Reese jarred the ball loose for Josh Mentzer to pick up in the first quarter, and Isaac Hardin forced and recovered a fumble in the second.
“The D-line was having pressure problems up front in the first half,” Tatro said. “Our coach told us we needed to man it up, just play harder, and that’s what we did in the second half — we fought hard, we played our hearts out and we came out on top.”
The Bulldogs (5-1, 3-1) spoiled the Pirates’ (4-2, 3-1) perfect start in region play and created a four-way logjam at the top of the Class 3A, Region 7 standings. The Purple and Gold, Good Hope, Winfield and Hamilton all have one region loss apiece, though wins over the latter pair give Hanceville a clear path to one of two hosting spots if it wins out versus Winston County, Danville and Cordova.
“I keep telling them every time we win a region game, the next one keeps getting bigger and bigger,” Miller said.
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 138 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.