BIRMINGHAM — Cullman’s season came to a close on Friday night following a 14-0 loss to Ramsay in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs.
The Bearcats (7-4) tallied only 123 yards of offense against the defending state champion Rams (7-4), who will play No. 3 Pinson Valley next week.
Despite the outcome, interim coach Mark Stephens — who personally consoled numerous players after the tough defeat — couldn’t have been more proud of a “resilient group of kids who brought it every day.”
“They’ve been through so much this season,” said Stephens, who took over for longtime coach Mark Britton midway through the campaign. “A season like this one … I don’t know very many teams who could get through it and accomplish what this team accomplished. It wasn’t easy. Obviously, we’d like this game to have turned out differently. Having said that, these kids did an awesome job.”
Ramsay opened the scoring late in the first quarter with a 15-yard touchdown scamper by senior running back Kobe Belcher, who finished his outing with 194 yards on 42 carries, to grab a 6-0 advantage.
After a quick three-and-out by Cullman’s offense, Starling Thomas received the ensuing punt and bolted 60 yards for the Rams’ final touchdown of the evening, which extended the home team’s lead to 14-0 following a successful 2-point try.
Ramsay then drained close to 10 minutes off the clock with a laborious 23-play, 72-yard drive to close out the first half — Cullman came up with a fourth-down stop at the 3-yard line to keep it a two-score deficit heading to the locker room.
Though the Black and Gold defense rose up again in the final two quarters — they allowed just 117 yards to the Rams during that stretch — the offense simply couldn’t find any answers for coach Reuben Nelson’s athletic defense.
“Hats off to them,” Stephens said. “They executed. They did what they were trying to do on both sides of the ball. But we challenged our guys before we came out here tonight. We said, ‘Leave it all on the field.’ And we did that in this game. The execution wasn’t there for us tonight. We had some mental errors as well that you can't have and expect to beat a team like Ramsay. It was a tough one. They are the defending state champions and a good ball team. There’s no doubt about it.”
Cullman threatened to get on the board in the waning minutes after senior Fletcher Jennings found freshman Isaiah Jones on a 40-yard strike to put the offense on the right side of the field.
Unfortunately, and despite two additional first downs, the Bearcats were turned away as time expired.
Jennings completed 14 of 21 through the air for 66 yards and an interception. He also added 21 rushing yards. Jayden Sullins nabbed 33 yards on the ground (nine carries), while he, Hayden Henderson, Carson Freeman, Reese Harbison, Dylon McSwain, and Jones all hauled in at least one reception as well.
Ramsay gained 278 total yards of offense in the win.