By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
To say Hanceville’s game against Vinemont last year was a launching pad for the Bulldogs’ 2012 season would be a massive understatement.
The Purple and Gold limped into the contest with an 0-3 record and were sporting a couple of black-eye losses to Fairview and Hamilton. Meanwhile, the Eagles were flying high, as they came into Ray Talley Stadium with a perfect mark and a top-10 rank.
It took just 48 minutes for Danny Miller and his squad to turn the tide on Vinemont — and their season — as the Bulldogs routed their county and region rival by a 34-6 score, riding the solid rushing performances of Sheldon Lewis and Torrey Green to a runaway victory.
“We knew we were in a situation at that point in the season where we had to step it up and win a game,” Miller said of last year’s victory. “I thought our kids responded really well in that game. We just came out, and I don’t really have an explanation as to why we did, but we got after them way better than we did any team in any of those first three games.”
Hanceville certainly came to play against the Eagles a season ago, essentially shutting down the Ty Jones and Tyler Boland train. The Bulldogs limited the rushing duo to just 163 yards, 80 of those coming on a run by the latter late in the game.
Miller won’t have to scheme against Jones this go-round, but that doesn’t mean the sixth-year head coach won’t have his hands full with the likes of Boland, John Michael Dye and others.
“You’ve got to play assignment defense against those guys,” Miller said. “We have people who have to account for every threat they've got. Obviously, we feel better about where we are after playing the way we did last week.”
While Vinemont failed to get anything going on the ground, the Purple and Gold more than made for it with their own relentless attack, as Lewis battered the Red and White defense to the tune of 183 yards and three touchdowns in the win.
Although Lewis has since departed, the Bulldogs have myriad options at the running back position, including Carlos Chacon, Brontae Harris, B.J. Smalls and Green.
The latter really came alive for his team last week against Hamliton. The senior rushed for 186 yards and three scores of his own in the Bulldogs’ 26-12 win over the No. 10 Aggies.
According to Green, his team was “really physical” and “gave them all we had” in its game against the Eagles last season.
As far as his performance goes, Green is hoping he can pick up right where he left out when he takes the field on Friday.
“I knew it was going to come sooner or later,” Green said of his big game. “I just had to get into a groove. I started out slow last year and worked my way up and started to run the ball harder. I feel like I'm at that point now. I’ve just got to keep working harder at it.”
The Bulldogs (2-1, 1-1 in Class 3A, Region 7) enter this year’s contest with a little more pep in their step, while Vinemont will welcome its bitter rival with open — but hostile — arms once again sporting a perfect 3-0 (2-0) record.
Don’t expect any players donning away jerseys to be overlooking their opponent, however, as Green knows all too well what can happen when guys let their guards down.
“We aren't looking past anybody,” he said. “We know what they are capable of, and they know what we are capable of. We want to go out there, have fun and play a good game.
For Miller, he’s hoping a good week of practice and a drive to keep the momentum going will be all his team needs on Friday, as they look down the road for one of four playoff spots.
“Last year's 0-3 hole made it tough for us down the stretch,” the coach said. “We'd like to win this game and get right back into the thick of the region. Obviously, Vinemont is trying to do that, too.”
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.