By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
GOOD HOPE —
There’s more to the Good Hope football team than Sebastion Fendley.
Be that as it may, it’s hard to ignore the senior signal-caller’s impact on a Raider squad that’s 4-2 (3-1 in Region 7) and poised to make a run at the Class 3A playoffs.
In two games without Fendley, who broke his left forearm early in a Week 3 win at Winston County, the Red and White went 0-2 in a pair of lopsided losses against legitimately tough opponents in Hamilton and New Hope. In Fendley’s first contest back last Friday, though, the elusive quarterback’s quick return sparked an impeccable team performance and 49-21 homecoming win over Danville.
By the end of the night, Fendley had 238 passing yards, 118 rushing yards and two total touchdowns — and he wasn’t even in game shape yet, according to Chris Moss.
“Any time you have an athlete that can go like that, this game’s won or lost by athletes,” the ninth-year Raider coach said. “It’s not a mixed signal — if you don’t have one of your better athletes on the field, it’s always a disadvantage and closes the door for some of the things you want to do. Him being on the field was a big plus.”
Considering the team’s 610 yards of total offense, Fendley wasn’t the only player donning Red and White to show out against the Hawks. Junior running back Jared McClure rushed for 177 yards and five touchdowns, while Chris Raper pulled down five receptions for 124 yards, not to mention solid outings by fellow senior wide receivers Austin Crumbley and Justin Turner.
McClure was ecstatic to once again be joined in the backfield by Fendley, not just for the squad’s overall picture, but for a few personal reasons as well.
“We got our quarterback back, and it felt great. It takes all the attention off me because when it’s just me, they zone in on me,” he said. “I just think we need to get back on this boat and keep winning games so we can get to the playoffs.”
McClure would love nothing more for Good Hope to carry its crazy momentum on O into this Friday’s county and region showdown at Vinemont (3-3, 2-2), which has won the last two meetings.
“It’s really important,” he said. “We need to click like we did last week because Vinemont’s a big rival. We’d just love to beat Vinemont.”
The dismantling of Danville was aided by a dominant display on defense. Alex Cofer led the way with 12 tackles — three were sacks — and a fumble recovery in yet another night to remember in an already-successful senior campaign.
After the Raiders’ 3-0 start and subsequent 0-2 slide, the linebacker could sense a change in his team’s mindset.
“It showed us we weren’t as good as we thought we were. It kind of put us down another level and made us work harder in practice,” he said of the brief streak in the wrong direction. “We’ve got to be a complete team and play physical like we did last week. We’re doing the right things. We’ve just got to practice hard and get ready.”
If anyone understands the injury woes Good Hope has gone through with Fendley and others, it’s Vinemont. Senior superstar Tyler Boland hasn’t seen the field since suffering an ankle injury in a 19-15 win at Cordova, and Blake Melton and Mason Lindsey were lost for the season with ACL tears during a Week 5 loss at Brewer. Quarterback and middle linebacker Kurtis Brawner also hurt his knee versus the Patriots but played through the pain last Friday in a close game at Hamilton.
“This part of the season, it’s really who’s got who left standing,” Moss said of the annual injury bug. “I don’t know that we’ve got anybody that just won’t play, but we’re still banged up. That guy they’ve got playing quarterback right now is a real tough kid.”
Even though Vinemont is in the midst of a three-game losing streak, the Raider coach isn’t keen on taking the Eagles lightly.
“They’ve got a good football team. They played Hamilton really well last week. I think they had them 7-6 until about 5-6 minutes left in the game. We weren’t even close,” Moss said with a chuckle, comparing Good Hope’s 45-0 defeat versus the Aggies to Vinemont’s 17-9 final. “But it’s going to be a challenge this week. Coach (Alan) Scott and them do a great job with those guys. It’s definitely going to be a war Friday night over at their place.”
The Raiders are currently tied for first place in the region with Hanceville, Hamilton and Winfield. The latter pair will play this week, while the Bulldogs will welcome Winston County for homecoming.
A win versus the Eagles would obviously keep Good Hope in the running for hosting rights, while a loss would throw Vinemont right into the postseason shuffle.
“We’ve got to do our part and play every week,” Moss said. “And they’re the same way.”
In the four games Fendley has seen the field, including Week 3’s 41-27 road victory against Winston County where freshman backup Riley Eisner took over following the senior’s early injury, Good Hope is averaging just less than 45 points per game on offense and 21 points per game on defense. In the two contests the speedster has sat the sideline, the Raiders put up just 13.5 points per game and gave up a sky-high 50 points per game.
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 138 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.