By Brian Lacy
The Cullman Times
DOUBLE SPRINGS —
The Hanceville Bulldogs converted six turnovers into six touchdowns Friday night in a 61-14 thrashing of Winston County.
The victory, Hanceville’s fourth straight after an 0-3 start, wasn’t a huge surprise. But the way the Bulldogs dominated the Yellow Jackets, winners of five straight coming into the game, left Winston County’s homecoming crowd stunned.
The Bulldogs had four interceptions and recovered two fumbles, and all six turnovers led to touchdowns. Dante Reese picked off two passes, Brontae Harris and Sheldon Lewis each had interceptions, Jeremy Hurt scooped up a fumble and Charles Tatro pounced on a loose ball.
“We thought if we came out and played well we could play with those guys,” Hanceville coach Danny Miller said after the game. “ Ours kids stepped up and made some big plays that caused those turnovers. Taking those and converting them into points was the big thing. When they turn the ball over it’s an opportunity, and we’ve got to take advantage of that, and I thought we did a good job.”
Reese was the defensive star. The sophomore showed great instincts, anticipating passes and moving into position to make plays. He had an impact on offense as well, catching three passes for 89 yards and a touchdown.
“He’s getting better and better every week,” Miller said of Reese. “He’s understanding more and more about what we want him to do. He’s just stepping up and making plays for us.”
On the second play of the game, Reese tipped a pass that sailed over the intended receiver and into the waiting arms of Harris — his fifth interception in the last two games. That set up a nine-play, 67-yards drive Torrey Green ended with a 22-yard touchdown run.
Late in the first quarter, Winston County’s Dylan Earnest coughed up the ball untouched after a 29-yard catch and run. Hurst scooped up the loose ball and returned in 23 yards to the Yellow Jacket’s 31-yard line. Three plays later, Harris competed a halfback pass to Reese for a 15-yard touchdown. Kolby Smith’s extra-point kick put the Bulldogs on top 14-0 with 9:53 left in the second quarter.
Reese was just getting warmed up. He intercepted passes on Winston County’s next two possessions, the first leading to a 33-yard touchdown run by Lewis, and the second a four-yard Lewis touchdown run to end a three-play, 23-yard scoring drive less than a minute before halftime.
The Bulldogs opened the second half with two long scoring drives without the benefit of a turnover. Green scored on a five-yard run after a 52-yard halfback pass from Harris to Reese, and Carlos Chacon scored on a bruising 10-yard run to cap a four-play, 64-yard drive following Winston County’s first touchdown of the night.
Lewis scored 22 seconds later, returning an interception 45 yards for a touchdown. Tatro recovered a fumble on Winston County’s next possession, and Chacon rushed around right end for an 18-yard touchdown on the next play.
“Our kids have been through a lot of adversity this week, and none of it’s their fault,” Miller said. “For them to go through that then come out here and play the way they played, it’s a tribute to the character of our kids.”
Green finished with 100 yards rushing on 10 carries, leading a ground game that rolled up 316 yards. Lewis finished with 68 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries, Chacon rushed six times for 40 yards and two touchdowns, and Hurst ran five times for 21 yards. Sophomore Eli Baker added an 81-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.
Winston County finished with 162 yards rushing, but 113 yards came on two plays late in the game. Outside of those two big plays, the Bulldogs held the Yellow Jackets to 49 yards on 27 carries.