Miracle man Swoopes leads Hartselle over Cullman

Caleb Suggs

Hartselle Enquirer

Nobody in the stadium knew it, but if you ask Keondre Swoopes, he knew it. “I was thinking they better tackle me,” Swoopes said. “I was going for the touchdown.” In typical Hartselle and Cullman fashion, Cullman continued to stay alive late in the game despite having negative yards in the third quarter. The Bearcats put some serious sweats on Hartselle fan’s foreheads when they tied the game at 25 with 2:36 left, but then Swoopes happened. He picked up the ensuing kickoff off one hop and proceeded to return it all the way to the other end zone for the go ahead score. Hartselle finished off the Bearcats 31-25 for their fourth straight win in the series, and eighth win out of the last nine.

It didn’t start out cheery for the Tigers as Cullman took the opening kickoff and drove it 72 yards down the field. Fletcher Jennings capped off the drive with a 16-yard touchdown to put the Bearcats up 7-0. Hartselle answered on the ensuing drive as new starting quarterback Luke Godsey busted a 68-yard run to the Cullman 12 yard line. Three plays later and Godsey connected with Connor Tumlinson for a seven yard touchdown score to tie the game.

After the two teams traded punts, Cullman went back on top 14-7 as Ezra Burks ran in from two yards out. Cullman kept the drive alive by converting their second fourth down of the night. Hartselle answered on the next drive just before halftime. Godsey created a big play by pitching the ball as he was being tackled out to running back Taylor Easterling for 23 yards. A few plays later and Easterling broke through for 31 yards down to the Cullman three-yard line. It looked as if Hartselle might not score as they went backwards, but the Tigers rolled the dice, as time was ticking off and went for it on fourth down. The gamble worked as Godsey connected with David Hayes for a nine yard score to cut the lead to 14-13 at halftime.

In the third quarter Hartselle dominated. Keondre Swoopes put the Tigers up 19-14 with a 1-yard touchdown run, that was set up by a 64 yard run by Godsey. Two drives later and Hartselle tacked on another touchdown, this time a four yard run by Godsey, to make the lead 25-14. The touchdown was set up by two spectacular plays. The first was when Godsey connected with Mac Meyer for 30 yards down to the Cullman 19. The second was when Godsey found Easterling out of the backfield for a 26-yard catch to convert a fourth and 23 that had been set up by a fumble.

However, just when it seemed that Hartselle was about to run away with the game, the Bearcats came storming back. After converting another fourth down, Cullman’s Jennings found Carson Freeman on a 41-yard screen pass for a touchdown. After a successful two-point conversion, the Bearcats had cut the lead down to 25-22. On the following drive, Hartselle went nowhere with the ball and even shanked their punt to give Cullman the ball at the Tiger’s 32 yard line. Cullman managed to get to the Hartselle five-yard line, but the Tiger’s defense was able to force a game tying field goal.

Still, just when things seemed grim for the Tigers, Keondre Swoopes saved the day. Swoopes returned the kickoff to put Hartselle back on top. Cullman still had a chance to take the win, as Hartselle had botched their PAT, but the Tigers forced the Bearcats to turn over on downs to take the win 31-25.

Looking back, it was about as ugly as it could’ve been for Hartselle. The Tigers had a PAT blocked and botched another, and also failed on two different two point conversion tries. The Tigers had drive killing penalties and even dropped two sure touchdown passes. But even through all that, head coach Bob Godsey could only see his team’s will to fight. “It wasn’t pretty and some games aren’t, but you have to be a little tough sometimes. That’s what I love about this group, they just keep fighting,” Godsey said. “That is what Hartselle football is about, it’s about finding a way to win. I can think of a 1,000 things that happened tonight that are good for our team. The biggest thing was that we answered every time we needed to. If we can continue to grow we will be ok.” Hartselle will come home next week for a game against the Lawrence County Red Devils.

Player(s) of the game: Keondre Swoopes and Luke Godsey:

You can’t not give this to Swoopes for the plays he made in this game, but quarterback Luke Godsey’s performance can’t be forgotten. The rising junior shined in his first start by throwing for 91 yards and two touchdowns and also adding 168 yards and another score on the ground.

 

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