The past two seasons for Hanceville’s football program ended with bitter playoff defeats.
However, the Bulldogs entered Friday night’s first-round clash with Glencoe prepared to start a fresh trend and become more than just a regular-season threat.
And for the first three quarters, it appeared as though Danny Miller’s squad was finally set come away with a postseason win.
Unfortunately for Hanceville, the fourth quarter proved to be its worst nightmare, as the Bulldogs gave up one too many big plays and fell to the Yellow Jackets 49-35 to finish their season with a respectable 9-2 record.
“They just made the plays all night long,” Miller said. “We had some breakdowns defensively. We told the guys before the game that we didn’t need to give up the huge plays by being out of position. That’s what happened tonight.”
The two teams entered the final stanza with the scoreboard knotted at 28 and Glencoe driving inside Bulldog territory.
Faced with a fourth-and-3 at the Hanceville 37-yard line, the Yellow Jackets faked a punt and picked up just enough to keep the chains moving. On the next snap from scrimmage, running back Will Ozmint dashed down the left sideline for a 32-yard scoring run to put the Yellow Jackets up seven.
After a three-and-out from the Hanceville offense, linebacker Dant’e Reese fell on a mishandled snap by Glencoe quarterback Dylan Stone to give the ball back to the Bulldogs at the Yellow Jackets’ 40-yard line.
Four plays later, quarterback Caleb Hurst found tight end Heath Dean across the middle on a 12-yard touchdown strike to bring the game back to square at 35.
While the offense had no trouble lighting up the scoreboard, it was the Purple and Gold defense that had some difficulties finding ways to stop the arm of Stone.
The junior signal-caller hit Jonathan Ozmint on a 57-yard pass down the seam to the 1-yard line. Stone plowed his way into the end zone one play later to put the Yellow Jackets back in front 42-35.
On the next Glencoe possession, it was Stone who haunted the Bulldogs yet again, completing a 70-yard touchdown strike to Ozmint on third-and-18 to stake his team to a two-score cushion with just more than two minutes remaining.
“When they lined up, we thought they were going to throw the ball,” Miller said. “They are really effective in their passing game. What they did tonight is what they’ve done all season. We just let too many guys run wide open.”
The Bulldogs found themselves behind the 8-ball early, as the Yellow Jackets scored on its first two plays from scrimmage — a 49-yard pass from Stone to Ozmint and a 29-yard run by Will Ozmint — to jump out to a 13-0 lead less than six minutes into the contest.
Hanceville didn’t fold up its tent, however, scoring a couple of touchdowns — a 36-yard scamper from Brontae Harris and a 2-yard plunge by Carlos Chacon — to grab a 14-13 cushion.
After another scoring toss from Stone to Ozmint, Hurst went 7 of 8 on the Bulldogs’ final drive of the first half, punctuating the touchdown drive with a 3-yard bootleg pass to Harris that gave Hanceville a 22-20 halftime edge.
“We battled back and stayed in the game,” Miller said. “When we score 35 points, we usually feel pretty good. I thought our defense actually played well except for the big plays.”
Hurst finished his final game at Ray Talley Stadium completing 14 of his 23 passes for 196 yards, two touchdowns and a pick.
He was also sacked six times by the Glencoe defense.
Harris led the way on the ground for the Bulldogs, collecting 77 yards on 14 carries and a score. He also caught four passes for 32 yards. Senior Torrey Green added 39 yards to go along with his lone score on the ground.
Reese hauled in six passes for 79 yards. He also came away with an interception, the aforementioned fumble recovery and a handful of tackles for loss.
Although Hanceville’s seniors will walk away without grabbing a postseason victory, Miller couldn’t say enough about the group that helped bring the Bulldogs back to relevance.
“Obviously, we wanted to win a playoff game, but it doesn't take away from the great season that our seniors had and how big a part they have been of this program’s turnaround,” the fifth-year coach said. “We just have to keep working hard. I am awfully proud of the kids and our coaches this season.”
Stone finished the night 9 of 14 for 263 yards and five total scores. The Ozmint brothers — Will and Jonathan — were also big contributors on offense with 240 combined yards through the air and on the ground.
Glencoe (8-3) will host Colbert County next Friday night.
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.