Cullman’s seniors suited up for their final homecoming game inside Oliver Woodard Stadium with every intention of putting the hurt on Russellville and keeping grasp of their top spot in the Class 5A, Region 8 standings.
And that’s exactly what they did.
The Bearcats (5-1, 4-0) bounced back nicely from their first loss of the season a week ago with a sensational 30-7 victory over the Golden Tigers (3-3, 2-2) on Friday night.
Led by seniors Garrett Crider on offense and Alex Martin on defense, the Black and Gold dominated both sides of the ball throughout the contest.
It was Cullman’s first-ever home win over Russellville — and just its third overall. The Bearcats also cemented their names in the record book as the only team in school history to defeat the Golden Tigers, Walker and Hartselle in the same season.
“I’m real proud of them,” coach Mark Britton said following the game. “We played outstanding tonight. Sometimes, it’s tough to maintain your focus during homecoming week, but I thought our kids came out after a great week of preparation and played with confidence. They executed the gameplan.”
Cullman led 3-0 heading into the second quarter after Chayse Freeman drilled a 42-yard field goal midway through the first.
The Bearcat defense then made its first of many plays on the evening, as cornerback Joseph Gable picked off Russellville’s Zackary Garrison at his own goal line before racing 40 yards and giving possession back to the Black and Gold.
Seven plays and a key fourth-down conversion later, Cullman extended its lead to 10-0 on a 1-yard run from Martin.
“That was a big turnover,” Britton said. “I thought that was the difference in the game. Gable was able to get the pick and turn the field around. It wasn’t just a seven-point turnaround. It was really a 14-point turnaround because we were able to get down the field and score a touchdown.”
In the second half, the Black and Gold offense finally found its rhythm, scoring on its first three drives of the third quarter.
Crider punched it in from five yards out, while Will Crenshaw added an 8-yard touchdown scamper. Quarterback Tyler Glenn then put the game out of reach for good, connecting with wide receiver Maison Goodwin on a 26-yard scoring toss to give the Bearcats a 30-0 advantage heading into the fourth frame.
While the offense took a little while to get going, the Cullman D was like a pack of swarming bees all night long. The unit had two interceptions — the one from Gable and another from senior Tyler Jones — a fumble recovery by Trey Moon and a couple of big fourth-down stops. Martin contributed with a sack, a couple of tackles for loss and several quarterback hurries as well. The Bearcats held the Golden Tigers to only 224 total yards.
“We just stopped their run early,” Martin said. “We made him throw the ball, and our secondary did the rest. I thought Tyler (Davis) and Trey (Moon) played really good games for us.”
Added Britton: “I’m really proud of how our defense bounced back. Every week is a learning process. Our kids weren’t afraid to watch film and get better. They wanted to come out here and play solid. They did that tonight.”
Crider finished with 164 yards on 22 carries, while Crenshaw added 85 to the ground attack as well. Glenn tossed for 164 yards to go along with a touchdown and a pick.
Goodwin caught four passes for 84 yards, and Mason Jones chipped in with three receptions for 50 yards.
Russellville’s lone score of the game came on a 44-yard pitch and catch from Garrison to wideout Reeder Smith in the fourth.
The solid win has Cullman sitting pretty at the top of the region with just four games remaining on the season. If the Bearcats hope to grab a first-round playoff game at home, they’ll need to win two of three games against Lawrence County, Athens and Muscle Shoals.
“If our defense keeps playing well and our offense keeps getting better, we'll come out all right in the long run,” Martin said. “We just have to keep playing hard.”
Martin and the rest of the Bearcats were led onto the field by Andrew Winfrey before the game. According to the senior lineman, he and the rest of his class wanted nothing more than to win their final homecoming game for Winfrey.
“ I know he'd want us to do anything we could to get the win,” Martin said. “Being the first team to beat Russellville here is real special for me, for the seniors and for Andrew, especially with him always down here supporting us.”
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.