By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
No main card is quite complete without a heavyweight bout.
And with Sebastion Fendley sporting a cast-covered, reconstructed left forearm and Tyler Boland wielding a healthy-enough ankle to take the field for the first time in three weeks, Good Hope and Vinemont each had their respective prize fighters back in time for Friday's crucial county and Class 3A, Region 7 contest.
After four rounds filled with brutal blows by both contenders, it was ultimately Fendley, Justin Turner and the rest of the Raiders who packed one extra punch to defeat the Eagles by a 21-13 decision.
Fendley wasn’t always the most accurate through the air, but he delivered the knockout with his feet, bobbing and weaving for a 32-yard scoring scamper with 2:03 left in the ballgame, just 29 seconds after Vinemont had closed the gap to a single point.
From there, the Good Hope defense forced one last turnover on downs, allowing its offensive counterparts to use the victory formation to run the remaining time off the clock.
“It was a great game,” Raider coach Chris Moss said. “Coach (Alan) Scott and them do a heckuva job. It was just one of those games, like I was telling him, nobody should lose.”
A massive amount of second-half penalties and turnovers — Vinemont had five and Good Hope three — kept the score close late into the fourth quarter. After clinging to a 14-7 lead since shortly before halftime, the wheels nearly fell off for the Raiders around the 4-minute mark in the final frame.
The coaching staff chose to sub in Riley Eisner for Fendley out of a time out, and the Eagles immediately made them pay. Dalton Harbison picked off the freshman backup’s first pass to jumpstart a Vinemont comeback bid that came close to being completed.
John Michael Dye helped the Eagles capitalize on the turnover three plays later, sprinting 59 yards down the left sideline for the score. Vinemont decided to go for two instead of the tie, however, and came up empty when Jonathan Burnette intercepted a Garrett Boland pass intended for his brother, Tyler, in the back right corner of the end zone.
A one-point win would’ve been just fine for Good Hope, but it didn’t mind the added insurance at the end, which was set up by a recovered onside kick at the 50 and a 20-yard pass-and-catch between Fendley and Kainan Smith.
“It was back and forth, back and forth,” Moss said. “I guess both of us decided to score one more time. Our kids played hard. Their kids played hard. It was just a great game all around.”
Turner was busy all night on both sides of the ball for the Raiders. The senior had a pair of interceptions in the second half and reigned in a 46-yard bomb at the 1 in the first to set up Jared McClure’s second 1-yard touchdown.
Moss called Turner “the man” while waiting for the postgame alma mater.
“It’s the best feeling in the world coming out here and winning,” said Turner, who finished with 65 receiving yards on two catches and also had multiple pass deflections on D. “I’ve got to thank the fans and the cheerleaders for supporting us all. I’ve got to thank God, my parents and the coaches for getting us motivated to win the game. It was extremely hard, but I knew our team could pull through.”
Kurtis Brawner engineered a seven-play, 72-yard drive to put Vinemont’s first points on the board in the second quarter. Dye had an 11-yard run on the possession before Brawner completed two pretty passes — a 33-yarder to Garrett Boland and an 18-yard scoring strike snared by Garrett Sipe at the goal line.
Tyler Boland was every bit as magical Friday night as he had been before being shelved with an ankle injury suffered late in a Week 3 win at Cordova. The Eagles’ senior superstar had an interception midway through the third quarter, ripped the ball right out of McClure’s hands at his own 5-yard line early in the fourth and also survived a bone-shattering hit late for a 15-yard catch from his sibling signal-caller.
The younger Boland finished with 33 receiving yards and 28 passing after spelling Brawner in the fourth quarter. Dye turned 12 carries into 97 yards on the ground and also hauled in a 15-yard catch. All 40 of Orey Woods’ 40 rushing yards came in the second half.
“I love my kids. They play so hard. They give good effort every night,” Vinemont coach Alan Scott said. “I hate to see them lose tonight, but I’m proud of them.”
Fendley was 13 of 34 for 160 passing yards and gained 52 yards on six carries. McClure was Good Hope’s leading rusher with 59 yards. Smith joined Turner as a productive target with three second-half receptions for 50 yards.
Though Turner was the main man on the Raider D, he wasn’t the only one who helped turn away the Eagles’ generally potent running attack time and time again. Other contributors included — but were certainly not limited to — Alex Cofer, Christian Echols, Zac Witcher, Lee Whisenant, Blake Watson, Dakota Burney, Austin White, Luke Calvert, Burnette and Austin Yates.
The win kept Good Hope (5-2, 4-1 in Class 3A, Region 7) in line to compete for one of two hosting spots and greatly lowered Vinemont’s chances of reaching the playoffs for a second straight year. The defeat was the Eagles’ (3-4, 2-3) fourth in a row after a 3-0 start.
One step closer to his team’s first postseason bid since 2008, Turner said the Raiders aren’t about to slow down with region games still remaining against Cordova and Winfield.
“We feel comfortable, but we know we have to work hard every week to get the job done,” the senior said.
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 138 or at email@example.com.