By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
Hanceville stormed into Vinemont on Friday evening with two goals in mind — pick up a crucial region victory against the Eagles and do so in impressive fashion.
Done and done.
The Bulldogs bruised the Vinemont D with 277 rushing yards, capitalized on five Eagle turnovers and turned in a tremendous defensive effort in the second half to escape Eagle Stadium with a 35-14 triumph over the Red and White.
“Anytime you win a region game, it makes the next one that much bigger,” Hanceville coach Danny Miller said. “I thought our coaches did a great job at halftime of making some defensive adjustments and getting our guys into better positions. Our kids went out there and executed. I’m awfully proud of our guys for fighting the way they did tonight.”
The Purple and Gold (3-1, 2-1 in Class 3A, Region 7) got off to a blazing start, scoring on their first three possessions of the game on touchdown runs by Carlos Chacon, Torrey Green and Caleb Hurst to take a commanding 22-6 lead midway through the second quarter.
Vinemont (2-1, 1-1) wasn’t about to go down without a fight, however, as the Eagles drove the field on a 10-play, 74-yard drive punctuated by a 13-yard touchdown carry by running back John Michael Dye to make it a 22-14 contest.
After a three-and-out on Hanceville’s ensuing possession, Vinemont threatened to score late in the half after quarterback Kurtis Brawner completed back-to-back passes to Blake Melton and Garrett Boland to set up the Red and White at the Bulldog 5-yard line with four seconds remaining.
However, Hanceville’s defense — as it did many times throughout the night — stood tall, denying Brawner on a quarterback keeper to maintain the eight-point cushion.
“I thought they (Vinemont) gained a lot of momentum in the second quarter,” Miller said. “I told our coaches at halftime that if they had gotten that play, it would have made things a lot tougher for us in the second half.”
Fortunately for Miller and his squad, the Eagles failed to punch it in before halftime and didn’t threaten to score again.
The Purple and Gold defense was a brick wall in the second half, forcing four Vinemont turnovers — three fumbles and an interception — and holding the Eagles to 65 total yards and just two first downs in the final 24 minutes of the game.
From there, it was just a matter of Hanceville running the football and avoiding the slippery conditions brought on by a steady rain throughout the contest.
Although the Bulldogs made a few mistakes of their own, including two second-half fumbles, they were able to take advantage of numerous Eagle miscues to increase their lead.
Green added to his touchdown total in the fourth quarter with scoring runs of 6 and 12 yards to turn a potential nail-biter into a comfortable win for the bruising back and his team.
“They were more physical than we expected,” Green said. “We came out the first two drives and hit them in the mouth. After that, we thought we were on top of them and started laying down and taking off.
“We came in at halftime and coach Miller told us to pick it up, so we came back out and that’s what we did. Our line stepped it up tonight. That’s all it was. We owe this win to our team as a whole. I’m just proud of everybody.”
The offensive line was certainly a candidate for the game ball, as they paved the way for Green’s 11 carries, 58 yards and three touchdowns. Other ground contributors for the Bulldogs included Brontae Harris, 15 carries for 88 yards; Chacon, nine touches for 86 yards and a score; and Hurst, four totes for 56 yards and a lone touchdown.
For Vinemont, Dye finished the evening with 33 carries for 155 yards and a touchdown. However, the sophomore also put the ball on the ground three times in the loss.
Brawner completed 4 of 8 passes for 80 yards, a touchdown and an interception. His score came on a 7-yard pass to Melton as the first quarter ended. The senior wideout finished his day with four catches for 54 yards.
Eagle coach Alan Scott didn’t have to think too hard as to why his squad dropped its first game of the season.
“Give Hanceville credit. They made the plays tonight,” he said. “I'll take the blame for that. We made too many mental mistakes.
“You can't turn the ball over against a bad team, much less a team that's one of the best in our region. Our defense bailed us out a few times or it could've been a lot worse for us.”
Both teams travel out-of-region next week, as the Bulldogs head to Class 5A West Point for a county battle with the Warriors. The Eagles, on the other hand, will hop on a bus to 5A Brewer.
Just because Miller and his team are getting a bit of a light breather from a tough region doesn’t mean he expects his players to give anything less than maximum effort when they take the field next Friday night.
“Every game matters,” he said. “If it didn’t, we wouldn’t play. We need to be well-prepared to play those guys because that’ll help us when we go back into region play the next week.”
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.