By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
GOOD HOPE —
Jared McClure and Sebastian Fendley took one look at the scoreboard and couldn’t help but smile at the sight of a new school record.
The Good Hope duo each had a hand in four touchdowns, including respective punt returns of 77 and 70 yards early in the first quarter that set the stage for a 61-14 blowout of Cullman County-rival Holly Pond on Thursday night.
The Red and White's previous highest point total was 57 in a Week 5 win against the Green and White in 2007.
The Raiders’ 12th straight win over the Broncos was never in doubt. After opening with the two sensational scores, Good Hope rarely let up the rest of the way out, piling on four more touchdowns for a 41-7 lead at halftime and another three just for good measure in the second half.
It all started with McClure, who took the ball off one bounce, took off to the right and rushed down the sideline 77 yards for the game’s first score.
“It was crazy. I looked back and everyone was on their butt,” said the junior, who also reached the end zone on 25- and 4-yard runs, as well as an 80-yard screen pass from Fendley. “I couldn’t do nothing without these guys blocking for me.”
The next time Holly Pond was forced to punt, it decided to avoid McClure altogether and try its luck with Fendley. The result wasn’t any better, as the elusive speedster made the Broncos pay with a 70-yard return that looked all too easy.
“After I made a couple of them miss and got into the open field, I knew I could outrun them,” said Fendley, who other than the 80-yard connection with McClure also scored on runs of 1 and 54 yards.
As hot as Good Hope’s offense obviously was, it’s D was just as dominant.
Justin Turner intercepted a pass late in the first quarter and then found himself on the receiving end of a 41-yard strike from freshman quarterback Riley Eisner three plays later. Senior linebacker Alex Cofer recovered a fumble at the Bronco 25 on the ensuing kickoff, setting up a touchdown run by McClure the very next play, the Raiders’ second score in a 16-second span.
Zac Witcher had one sack in the first half and another in the second. The last was a booming blow to Holly Pond freshman signal-caller Michael Lambert that sent the ball sprawling for Good Hope’s Dakota Burney to fall on.
Tim Kritner had a sack of his own, and Austin Morris and Zach Anderson each recovered a pair of Bronco fumbles in the end zone.
Holly Pond scored on its last possession of the first half — a 43-yard bomb from Lambert to M.J. Ford — and its first of the second — a 1-yard run by Tony Vazquez, who led all Bronco rushers with 53 yards on seven carries.
Lambert finished 14 of 30 with 162 yards through the air. Dakota Burks had four receptions for 57 yards, and Jacob Jones had three for 27.
“We had breakdowns in our kicking game at the start, and we talk about that all the time, how important the kicking game is,” first-year Holly Pond coach Mike Bates said. “(The two returns) kind of took our hearts out of it. But they are a really well-coached football team. They’re strong, big and fast.”
Good Hope’s final score came on a 18-yard pass from Eisner to Jordan Collins. Eisner scrambled for what seemed like ages before flicking a floater to a patiently waiting Collins in the end zone. Collins also had a 32-yard catch on the drive.
The Raiders will open up region play at home next week against another county rival in Hanceville.
“It’s an awesome feeling, but we ain’t gonna stop here,” said Fendley, who had 102 rushing yards on just five carries. “Our goal is 15-0, and that’s what we are going to go for. I’m going to play my hardest, keep my heart in it and maybe we’ll go all the way.”
Next up on the docket for the Broncos is Brindlee Mountain next Friday at home.
“Our kids are still learning what we’re doing,” Bates said. “I told them I wasn’t ashamed, but that I was disappointed. Hopefully we’ll bounce back next week and have a better effort.”
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 138 or at email@example.com.