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Tigers stuff Bearcats

Caleb Suggs

 Hartselle Enquirer

What happens when you have Hartselle and Cullman playing in torrential rainstorm? You get an instant classic. As the Hartselle Tigers traveled to Cullman to take on the Cullman Bearcats, the two teams delivered perhaps the most unforgettable game in the rivalries’ long and storied history.

In one of the wildest of most physical confrontations between the two ever, both Hartselle and Cullman put aside all the class 6a rankling and region standings and went to war for the sole purpose of proving that they were better than the other. The Tigers won out with a 14 – 13 victory over the Bearcats.

Despite the threat of a storm, fans of both sides packed out the stadium to witness another great rivalry classic. Both teams started slow early on but Cullman looked to gain the upper hand when they pinned Hartselle at their own 1-yard line. Hartselle would play it conservative and punt it back to give the Bearcats great field position. However, the Tigers would force a fumble to give the ball back to their offense. Hartselle would strike quickly as a 22 yard run by Zane Green and a 26-yard catch by Tobias Mitchell would put the Tigers at the Cullman 19 yard line. Backup quarterback Trevor Oakes would then connect with Kyle Hamlett two plays later for a 19-yard touchdown pass to give Hartselle the 7-0 with 2:16 left in the first.

However, this was when the problems would begin. Lighting would put the game under a 30-minute delay. As the game, restarted Cullman would take advantage to put momentum back in their favor. The Bearcats would drive the ball steadily down the field, converting on fourth down twice along the way, and cap off a stellar drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 7-7.

The rest of the first half would be a back and forth defensive struggle as both teams struggled to move the ball in the pouring rain. Hartselle would attempt a

fake punt at midfield with .21 left in the half but it would be intercepted and give Cullman a chance to take the lead before halftime. Cullman would attempt a 56-yard field goal but it would fall well short and keep the game at 7-7 at halftime.

Hartselle would come out strong forcing a three and out to open the second half. Hartselle would then proceed to drive down the field. A 13-yard pass plus a roughing the passer penalty would push the Tigers to the Cullman 48. Hartselle would manage to make it to the Cullman 20 after quarterback Jake Tiffin converted a fourth and two.

Then it began to get rough. Emotions were running high between the two bitter rivals as after play scuffles began to occur regularly. After few more plays and a few penalties on both squads, Hartselle would find itself with a fourth and 18. The Tigers would elect to go for it instead of trying the long field goal in the downpour. Hartselle would get close but not enough and hand the ball back.

Cullman would then fumble for the second time and Hartselle would take over at the Cullman 40. After a few carries by Jordan Stover and several unsportsmanlike penalties, Hartselle would find itself at the Cullman 9. The Bearcats would bow up and force a field goal, which was missed, keeping the game at 7-7.

As the fourth quarter began, Hartselle would start at the Cullman 40-yard line after a punt. Quarterback Jake Tiffin would take it 40 yards to the house on the first play to give Hartselle the 14-7 lead. Things would only seem to get worse for Cullman as another fumble would give Hartselle the ball back at the Cullman 24. However, Hartselle would fail to put any points on the board inside the red zone for the third time and turn the ball back over on downs to the Bearcats. Cullman would then drive all the way down the field and score a touchdown with 1:50 remaining to set up the potential game tying pat. However, given the circumstances, Cullman’s coach thought their best chance of winning was to go for the two-point conversion. Both teams lined up for the most important play of the game. Cullman’s running back would find a hole but Linebacker Connor Landers would meet him there and stand him up to stop the try and keep the game 14-13. Cullman would get one more opportunity after recovering the onside kick but the Hartselle defense would stop the Bearcats cold and give the Tigers the win 14-13.

After the game Head coach Bob Godsey was pleased with his teams handling of adversity. “It wasn’t pretty. We do our best to make it interesting” Godsey said “but we found a to win and that’s what matters. Godsey had mixed reactions about all the extracurricular activities that went on after plays. “I don’t think we did the best job of handling that, I though we could have handled it better.” Godsey said “at the same time there is nothing wrong with playing with a little bit of fire.” Senior leader Zeth Malcolm was very happy with his team’s performance. “I feel great and I’m so proud of our team. I think if anything that could have went wrong it did but we weathered the storm and got the job done as a team.” Perhaps the most inspirational moment of the game was, despite all the high emotions that were running wild, both teams left it on the field and shook hands like men after the game. Hartselle will host Florence next week while Cullman will travel to Decatur.