Cullman’s seniors finally have their win against rival Hartselle.
And the Bearcats earned it with a ferocious fourth-quarter rally on Friday night, squeaking out a 15-10 victory against the Tigers at Oliver Woodard Stadium.
Junior quarterback Max Dueland capped the latest thriller in the series with a 1-yard touchdown run, leaping over a wall of Hartselle defenders into the end zone for the game-winner with 6.5 seconds left.
Cullman (4-5, 3-2 in Class 6A, Region 7) scored 12 consecutive points over the final 5:57, snapping a five-game losing skid to Hartselle and locking up the No. 3 playoff spot in the region.
“There’s been great football played in this series for a lot of years. This wasn’t the prettiest, but it has to be one of the wilder ones. Cullman hasn’t made this too much of a rivalry lately, so this is important. I love it for the seniors who have stuck it out. We’ve got to build on it,” said Cullman first-year coach Oscar Glasscock.
The game was on pace to be among the lowest scoring in the series before the teams combined to produce 19 fourth-quarter points.
Hartselle (4-4, 2-3) broke a 3-3 tie on a 3-yard touchdown run by tailback Brinten Barclay with 8:29 to go in the game.
The Tigers’ momentum, though, was short-lived.
Six plays later, Cullman’s Jayden Sullins countered with a 41-yard touchdown run.
But Brody Adams’ extra point sailed wide left, allowing Hartselle to sustain a 10-9 edge.
Cullman, however, made sure the missed extra point didn’t sting.
The Bearcats forced Hartselle to punt after three plays on its next possession, and their game-winning drive ate up 4:16 on the clock, covering 75 yards on 14 plays.
Sullins scooted away for a crucial 19-yard run on a third-and-5 play during the drive, propelling the Bearcats into Hartselle territory.
And, as it did throughout the game, Cullman’s offense stayed patient and eventually finished off the possession with Dueland’s touchdown.
Hartselle had one final play to work with from the 50-yard line, but Cal George’s Hail Mary attempt was knocked down at the 10-yard line by an array of Bearcat defenders.
Glasscock credited Cullman’s offense for trusting in the game plan, especially late in the game.
“One of the things I wanted to do when I got here was establish the offensive line. We have tough kids, and you want to lean on them in close games,” Glasscock said. “The one thing you have to do during your first year in a program is stay true to yourself. You establish a certain style, no matter the situation or score.”
Sullins led Cullman with 141 rushing yards and the touchdown on 21 attempts.
“We haven’t beat Hartselle in a while. It’s a huge win for the senior class. We’ve wanted this game for everyone involved,” Sullins said. “We trust in our coaches, and that’s one reason why we’re in the playoffs.”
Jaylen Hughey contributed 59 yards rushing for the Bearcats, and Dueland had 52.
George accounted for 132 total yards for Hartselle, passing for 76 and rushing for 56.
Barclay had 69 rushing yards and the lone score for the Tigers.
Cullman led 3-0 at halftime. Hartselle tied it at 3-all with 6:04 remaining in the third quarter.
The Bearcats close the regular season at home next week, hosting Fort Payne.