By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
WEST POINT —
Thursday night’s cross-town contest between Cullman and West Point may have been broadcast on a statewide stage, but neither team could have envisioned its lengthy halftime intermission being the talk of the evening.
Following an hour-plus lightning delay before the start of the second half, the Bearcats were the team standing triumphant at the end, taking care of the Warriors 35-14 to move to 3-0 on the season with a 2-0 mark in Class 5A, Region 8 play.
Cullman was able to ride big scoring plays — including third-quarter touchdowns of 61- and 51-yards — to pull away from a pesky West Point squad that came out with a flourish to start the second half.
Trailing 14-0, the Warriors booted a squib kick to begin the third frame that bounced off the helmet of a Bearcat player, giving the Maroon and White an early possession.
West Point made the most of its opportunity, converting a huge fourth-and-5 inside Cullman territory before cashing in on a 1-yard touchdown run from Trent Campbell to cut the deficit to just seven points.
The Warriors momentum was short-lived, however, as Black and Gold running back Garrett Crider took a handoff on the Bearcats’ very next play from scrimmage 61 yards to extend the contest back to a two-possession game.
Crider credited the long break for his score and the team’s subsequent offensive outburst.
“We had plenty of time to look through what was going on, what we were doing wrong,” he said. “We had the chalk board out and just drew it up and figured out what we were missing on the blocking schemes.
“I was looking for the cutback because there was grass all to the left. But the hole was just right at the top. I hit it and then had to cut back, break a few tackles and that was it.”
For coach Mark Britton, he saw his senior’s run as one of the most — if not, the most — important plays of the game.
“They take the ball down eight or 10 plays and score and definitely had the momentum coming out of halftime,” Britton said. “We talked about it on offense. We need to make a big play and be patient, so I was glad to see Garrett with a big run.”
After a punt on the ensuing Warrior possession, it was once again the quick-strike capability of Cullman’s offense that gave the unit a big advantage down the stretch.
Senior wide receiver Mason Jones took a shovel pass from quarterback Tyler Glenn around right end, made one cut and raced 51 yards — but not before shedding a tackle near the goal line — for the score to give the Bearcats an insurmountable three-touchdown lead.
“We were running those same plays in the first half, but we weren’t getting the key block,” Britton said. “We came out the first two plays (of the second half), were able to maintain blocks and get some good cuts on our backs and big plays.”
Crider added a 6-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, while the Warriors’ Tristan Dubberly scampered to the end zone on a 37-yard run late in the frame to cap the scoring.
The Bearcats two first-half touchdowns came on Glenn passes — a 15-yard screen to Crider and a 16-yard catch-and-run by Seth Donaldson.
Glenn finished his night 11 of 19 in the air for 227 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Crider added 85 yards on the ground and 45 more receiving to go along with his three scores. Jones caught four balls for 89 yards, while Auston Neal added two hauls for 46 yards.
For West Point, it was a another tough loss for Don Farley and his squad. The coach said he felt as though the tide turned immediately following Crider’s long run.
“Third quarter, we got the momentum, and we just turned right around and gave them the momentum,” he said. “You know, football’s a funny game. Momentum can be a big shift.
“I had a feeling with the way the run defense played in the first half, coach Britton had challenged his offensive line. They come out with a challenge, and their kids responded. We’ve got to be able to respond when another team gets challenged.”
Dubberly carried the ball eight times for 85 yards, while quarterback Bryant Farley added 130 yards of total offense for the Warriors. Campbell also tacked on 45 on the ground.
“It’s a process,” Farley said. “We’re still learning some things offensively and trying to find our identity. There’s still some positives out of here. We’re not going to just look at the scoreboard and think that there’s not things we can build on coming out of it.”
West Point (1-2, 0-2) will travel to Russellville next Friday, while Cullman will be back home for a much-anticipated showdown with heated-rival Hartselle.
With such a big game on the horizon, Crider said his team will get back to work as soon as possible.
“I don’t think we’ll take too much time celebrating,” he said. “We’ll go straight to Hartselle. We’ve always had trouble beating them the last few years. This would be the first time I ever beat Hartselle. Looking forward to it.”
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.