- Cullman, Alabama

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September 8, 2011

PREP FOOTBALL: 2-0 Bearcats take on region power Walker

CULLMAN — It’s only Week 3 of the high school football season, but some games are already helping determine playoff spots.

One of those happens tonight as Cullman goes to Walker for a Class 5A, Region 6 matchup.

“Realistically, you have to figure that the top three teams (in the region) are us, Walker and Hartselle,” Bearcats coach Mark Britton said. “It’s kind of early to think about playoff implications, but this week really does matter for who gets home-field advantage (in the first round).”

The top two teams in each region host first-round games.

Those same three teams finished 1-2-3 last season in Region 6. In 2008 and ’09, Hartselle wasn’t in the same region as the Vikings (1-1, 1-0) and Bearcats (2-0, 1-0), but the teams were at the top of their respective regions.

At Walker, John Holladay is in his fifth year as head coach. He has compiled a 39-11 record and made the playoffs all four seasons.

His 2011 team starts eight-of-11 seniors on each side of the ball, so experience is no problem.

Even with all the seniors, several of last year’s starters graduated.

One player who is back — a difference-maker — is third-year starting quarterback Carson Roberts.

Last year, Roberts passed for 1,934 yards and 24 touchdowns.

“He’s been in a lot of big games,” Britton said. “He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes and does the little things well.”

Britton described Roberts as a pro-style quarterback who can run if he has to.

Roberts did lose last year’s top six receivers — an important position for a spread offense.

With an experienced quarterback across the line, Britton and his staff have been working hard at “hiding” formations.

“We want to wait until the last possible second to show what we’re doing on defense,” Britton said. “(Roberts) is so good at picking up blitzes, stunts and coverages. We want to balance it out so that he isn’t able to figure it out as quickly.”

But what troubles Britton most about the Vikings is special teams.

“They have great speed in their return game,” he said. “They’re liable to return a punt or kickoff for a touchdown at any time.”

Kyle West has already returned a kickoff for a score for Cullman.

Walker’s last home loss to a region foe came in 2007.

Last year’s Vikings victory broke a five-game losing streak to the Bearcats.

Meanwhile, Cullman is, thus far, enjoying the kind of season it has grown used to. The Bearcats have outscored opponents 81-13, using a stingy defense and a young but talented offense.

Sparkman’s 13 points, scored in mop-up time once the game was already well out of hand, didn’t come against the Bearcats’ starting defense.

Quarterback Zac Crocker has completed 32-of-45 passes — a remarkable 71 percent completion rate.

Garrett Crider has rushed 20 times for 109 yards, and Drew Johnson has added 89 yards on 23 carries.

“We’ve been able to keep a fresh back in the game,” Britton said.

If he has one early-season problem with the offense, it comes on the goal line. The Bearcats have been scoring inside the red zone, but they have had to resort to fourth-down runs from the 1 on multiple occasions.

Stan Veitch can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 258 or at

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