Many of Cullman’s football players are quite accustomed to playing in front of packed houses on Friday nights.
On Thursday evening, however, the Black and Gold will be under the spotlight a bit more than usual during a home game inside Oliver Woodard Stadium.
When the Bearcats travel to West Point for a pivotal Class 5A, Region 8 clash with the Warriors (1-1, 0-1), the game will be broadcast statewide on WABM 68 as part of the television station’s Thursday Night Lights series.
Cullman (2-0, 1-0) last made a TV appearance against Walker during the 2011 season, when a last-second field goal from Collin Glasscock helped the Bearcats sqeak out a 17-14 decision against the Vikings.
“I’m sure the kids are all aware of the ballgame being on TV,” Cullman head coach Mark Britton said. “Our game against West Point has always been a good rivalry. We used to start off the season against them, and it’s always been a crowd pleaser.”
Added senior defensive back Trey Moon: “It’s definitely another incentive to show out. It makes you want to show what you’ve got as a team and play a little bit harder.”
The Bearcats head into the short week fresh off a 45-27 destruction of East Limestone that saw the Black and Gold jump out to a 28-0 halftime lead and drastically improve on both sides of ball from Week 1’s win over Walker.
Cullman’s Garrett Crider was a beast on offense, collecting 227 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. Quarterback Tyler Glenn, wide receiver Mason Jones and the defense were all crisp in the victory as well.
The one question on everyone’s mind, including Britton’s, was how his team would respond in the days following the Week 1 brawl with the Vikings and subsquent suspension of defensive coordinator Matt Hopper.
“I was really pleased overall with our effort on Friday,” Britton said. “We showed a lot of improvement from Week 1. Our kids stayed focused in what was an emotional week for them. Hats off to them. Something I have learned throughout my time here is that kids are resilent. You give them opportunites and they’ll come out and surprise you.”
For a defensive captain like Moon, last Friday’s game against the Indians served as a launching pad for his unit, as they held their opponent to zero first-half points.
“We made it a focal point to go out there and play well,” he said. “We didn’t have coach Hopper during the week, so that made it a little different in practice. Our first game we were a little off with five new starters. Once they got the wide-eyed out of them, they were ready to go.”
According to Britton, assistant coaches Jeremy Peek and Patrick Britton took over defensive responsibilities last week, both on the field and in the press box. Secondary coach Jonathan Romine also took more of an active role as well.
“Everybody’s got to pick it up a little bit and do a little bit more,” Britton said.
With the distractions all but in the rearview mirror, Cullman turns its eyes to West Point, a team that hasn’t been able to defeat the Bearcats since 1996.
Don’t take that to mean Britton or his players are writing off the up-and-coming Warriors as an easy win.
“West Point’s got some good looking kids,” Britton said. “That No. 55 (Brandon Wray) is a player I’d love to have on my team. For us, we’ve got to go out there and fight for some consistency.
“We are still young in a lot of spots. We still have a ways to go before I am confident we can be consistent as we want to be week in and week out.”
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at email@example.com.