By Benjamin Bullard
The Cullman Times
COLD SPRINGS —
Cold Springs didn’t need big plays to send region-foe Francis Marion back to Perry County with a convincing 22-6 loss in Class 2A, Region 4 action Friday.
Ball control, resilient defense and solid fundamentals put the Eagles (2-4, 1-3) on top of the Rams (0-6, 0-4), handing Cold Springs its second win of the season.
The homecoming victory came courtesy of a dominant running attack, led by workhorse fullback Caleb Ellison, who consistently pounded out 6, 8 and 10-yard runs between the hash marks to keep the Eagles’ offense on the field on long drives in both halves.
Already up 14-6 at halftime, Cold Springs’ opening second-half drive laid to rest any doubt that Francis Marion would take control of a game that, despite the close score, it had lost in the trenches in the first half.
After Cold Springs’ defense stalled on both a sack and incomplete pass by Ram quarterback Johnte Hoskins, the offense took a downed punt at its own 26 with just over 11 minutes left in the third quarter. From there, the Eagles launched a grinding 61-yard drive that kept the ball out of Francis Marion’s hands until the quarter was nearly finished.
That drive didn’t produce a score, with Cold Springs turning the ball over on downs at the Francis Marion 13-yard line. But it re-established the tough-minded approach to ball control the Eagles had begun in the first half and threw the mistake-prone Rams even farther off balance.
When Cold Springs wasn’t beating Francis Marion, the Rams were busy beating themselves. A bevy of dead-ball penalties in crucial moments took the Rams’ offense out of first-down opportunities and, early in the fourth quarter, set Cold Springs up for the game’s biggest play — a 47-yard interception return that flipped the field and led to the Eagles’ game-icing final touchdown.
With five minutes left in the game, the Rams drove the ball as far as the Cold Springs 34-yard line and seemed poised to threaten the Eagles’ 14-6 lead. After a false start — Francis Marion’s 10th penalty of the night — took them back to the 39-yard line, Hoskins dropped back for a long pass that would have set the Rams up with a first-and-goal ticket back into the game.
But the Eagles’ Vince Stewart was having none of it, stepping in front of the pass for a blistering interception return down the left sideline that put the ball on the Francis Marion 42.
From there, it was all Ellison, with the Eagles’ 220-pound fullback lurching up the middle on a lengthy nine-play series that paid off when he dove in for a game-sealing 1-yard touchdown, as the game clock ticked inside the one-minute mark.
Cold Springs coach Rod Elliott would have liked a bigger comfort zone than the scoreboard indicated for most of the game, but he was happy to get the win.
“That was our first region win in a really long time — since either ’08 or ’07,” Elliott said. “I was surprised that we didn’t have the game more under control really early, but we made some mistakes that just kept us from having it under control. But we kept the ball a long time, and that’s the way we want to play.”
The Eagles travel to Lamar County next week as they look to improve their record in region play.
‰ Benjamin Bullard can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 734-2131 ext. 270.