By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
Ever since Mark Britton took over the reins of Cullman’s football program back in 2001, the longtime head coach has been adamant about his teams taking it one game at a time.
In his 13 years on the Bearcat sideline, Britton has wanted nothing more from his players other than to focus on the task and opponent at hand, rather than mull over any “what could have beens” from games already played.
With Cullman (7-2, 5-2 in Class 5A, Region 8) still smarting from its 47-7 loss to No. 3 Muscle Shoals last Friday night, it would certainly be understandable if Britton’s squad was still working on ridding itself of the bitter taste of defeat heading into this week’s practices.
That’s not how the Black and Gold roll, though.
“We try not to dwell too much on games, whether they're wins or losses,” Britton said. “We come in for film on Sunday and try to put all that behind us. On Monday, we start with a clean slate. We sure don't want to dwell on a loss and it cost us a second loss. We've just got tough teams in our region.”
While it may be a little easier for a veteran coach like Britton to brush off a loss, it doesn’t always ring true for the players.
Quarterback Tyler Glenn had a front-row seat to last week’s 40-point rout at the hands of the Trojans and said he and his teammates didn’t like the feeling one bit.
“We were pretty upset that we lost, and that we lost a game that would have won us the region,” the senior said. “However, I think we’ve moved on from it. We had a good talk and a good practice, so it seems like we’ve bounced back.”
The Bearcats have no choice but to have a short memory as they prepare to welcome 5A No. 7 Center Point (8-1, 6-1 Region 6) into Oliver Woodard Stadium on Friday night. Cullman defeated the Eagles — which finished 4-7 — 28-6 last season in the first-ever meeting between the two teams.
Things have obviously changed for first-year coach Bennie Hall and his squad this year, as they come into their contest with the Bearcats sporting a de facto Region 6 crown — Walker went 7-0 but was unable to claim the title due to an AHSAA suspension following Week 1’s brawl with Cullman — and a renewed sense of confidence that wasn’t present during the previous meeting.
“They’ve always had an outstanding program,” Britton said of Center Point. “Their quarterback (Keilan Knight) really sets them off. They have great skill players and are just well-coached. They’re a hungry team playing with a chip on their shoulder. We’ll have our hands full for sure.”
The Eagles happen to come from the Bearcats’ playoff cross-region, which could serve as a measuring stick when the Black and Gold prepare for their first-round matchup against Moody — which Center Point defeated narrowly 25-21 midway through the season — in a couple of weeks.
While there’s no doubt Muscle Shoals sits atop of Region 8, Athens, Hartselle and Cullman are all very similar, not only in record, but in talent as well. Britton said he sensed a similar situation within Region 6.
“Just like with our teams, their games are very competitive and very close,” the coach said. “Between their top few teams, I don't think there's that much of a difference.”
Britton and company enter Friday night’s matchup with the Eagles no doubt looking for a win. However, they are also hoping to put last week’s loss firmly behind them by cleaning up silly errors and cutting down on avoidable mistakes.
“We talk about you're as good as your last game,” Britton said. “We don't feel like we played very well our last game. We are trying to avoid all those mistakes that have kept our opponents in games and allowed them to get some easy scores.”
Added Glenn: “It’s going to be a big boost for us if we can play well and beat Center Point. We want to be able to head into the playoffs on a good game and riding momentum.”
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at email@example.com.