There was no drama Friday night during or after the game at Oliver Woodard Stadium, only smiles and celebrations for the Cullman Bearcats.
Cullman jumped out to a 28-0 halftime lead and cruised to a 45-27 win over East Limestone, giving coach Mark Britton his 107th career victory with the Bearcats, surpassing the legendary Coach Woodard as the winningest coach in Cullman High School history.
“It hasn’t really soaked in to be honest with you,” Britton said after sharing a few minutes with family, friends and former players on the field. “I was running these sidelines when my brothers were playing — Coach Woodard was coaching — as a ballboy. I’ve spent a lot of time in this stadium. It’s truly an honor.
“In my mind, Coach Woodard will always be the guy. He will always be the guy. As a young coach, and just watching him as a young player — I never had the honor to play for him; he had already retired, but he was still teaching when I came through as a student. He would come by practice and share things with us when I was brand new here at Cullman. We just want to do a good job and put a good program in this stadium. I hope he would be proud of what our kids have accomplished in the last few years.”
Friday night couldn’t come soon enough for the Cullman players and coaches. In a week that was filled with uncertainty and suspensions following last week’s post-game fight at Walker, the chance to focus on football was a welcome distraction.
“We were really motivated,” said senior running back Garrett Crider, who rushed for 227 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. “I feel like that was our therapy, to get back on the field.”
Quarterback Tyler Glenn was poised and accurate from the opening drive. He completed 20 of 25 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns. His favorite target, senior Mason Jones, caught nine passes for 130 yards and one touchdown.
“It was incredible,” Jones said, referring to Glenn’s performance. “From what it was last week with all the incompletions, every ball he threw tonight was catchable. Any balls that we dropped were our fault.
“Tyler really started clicking tonight. After everything that happened we really feel like we’ve gotten together as a team. We were more of a unit than we played as last week. We played as a bunch of individuals last week, and made a ton of mistakes. We fixed those in practice this week, and came together as a unit.”
The key moment in the game came with 3:50 in the second quarter after Cullman’s defense stopped East Limestone on fourth down at the 20-yard line. The Bearcats put together a nine-play, 80-yard drive that included a clutch fourth-down completion from Glenn to Jones inside the 20-yard line with 34 seconds left. A nine-yard completion to Crider on the next play set up an eight-yard touchdown pass from Glenn to Jones with eight seconds remaining in the first half.
“It goes back to practice,” Jones said. “We run those plays over and over. The touchdown play, we probably ran that play four times a day every day in practice during the summer. It’s about building those mental muscles so you know the routes you are running, the offense clicks together and the line really protected Tyler well.”
Crider surpassed the 200-yard mark with 4:16 left in the third quarter on a 55-yard touchdown run that put Cullman ahead 38-7.
“Last week we had trouble getting the blocking down,” Crider said. “We were missing people and getting hit at the line by linebackers. This time we had everybody accounted for. There were big holes and cutback lanes all day.”
Crider shard the backfield with Will Crenshaw, who rushed eight times for 52 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown in the first quarter. He added kickoff returns of 63 and 49 yards in the second half.
Maison Goodwin caught four passes for 23 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown that pushed Cullman’s lead to 21-0 with 6:16 left in the second quarter. Seth Donaldson had four reception for 46 yards, while Auston Neal caught two passes for 17 yards.
East Limestone’s offense ran 16 plays in the first half, compared to 41 for Cullman, and gained only 102 yards, rushing seven times for six yards. Quarterback Brick Pugh finished 15-of-20 passing for 226 yards and two touchdowns, and was intercepted once by Cullman’s Wesley Walker.
“I thought our kids did a great job of staying focused,” Britton said. “I’ve got a great coaching staff. The kids were disappointed last week in a lot of the mistakes we made. We didn’t really carry our practice into the game last week. This week, we did a few more things the correct way.”