Hartselle’s passing game clicks as Tigers knock off No. 7 Cullman 28-14
Justin Schuver, Hartselle Enquirer
In a rivalry being played for the 76th time, this time it was the Tigers who finished on top.
Hartselle (4-1) defeated No. 7 Cullman (4-1) 28-14 Friday night at J.P. Cain Stadium, sending the Bearcats to their first loss of the season. The Tigers were able to avenge a loss at Cullman last season, where Hartselle suffered a lopsided 37-10 defeat. The win gave Hartselle a 38-35-3 lead in the series, a rivalry that dates back to 1920.
It was also the Tigers’ second win this season over a ranked opponent. Hartselle defeated then-No. 2 Decatur 17-7 Sept. 8.
Hartselle senior wide receiver Tyler Young had a standout performance against the Bearcats, finishing with nine catches for 107 yards and two touchdowns. Buoyed by the sure hands of Young and his other receivers, senior quarterback Wes Chenault threw for 131 yards on 13-of-16 passing.
Chenault and the Hartselle passing game were especially strong in the second half, a half in which Chenault was a perfect 6-for-6 on his passing attempts.
Cullman came into Friday night’s game undefeated and ranked seventh in the state, but it was the Tigers who made the first key play of the contest. With 51 seconds left in the first quarter, Hartselle’s David Reeves blocked a Cullman punt that set the Tigers up in great field position. One play later, Chenault found Young open for a 20-yard touchdown.
A 23-yard punt return by Young put Hartselle on the Cullman 34 and set up another touchdown for the Tigers. Josh Slaten scored on a 1-yard touchdown run and Hartselle led 14-0 with 8:32 left in the second quarter.
Down 14-0 at halftime, Cullman responded with a touchdown drive on its first possession of the second half. Bearcat quarterback Chris Fisher found Colton Terry open for a 3-yard reception to cut the Hartselle lead to seven points.
But the Tigers responded on their next possession, marching 80 yards in five plays with Slaten again taking it in for a 2-yard touchdown run. Young had two catches of 36 and 12 yards on the drive. On the 12-yard catch, Young was hit hard by a Cullman defender and did a flip in the air but hung onto the ball.
Young scored his second touchdown of the game with 3:32 left in the third quarter on a 9-yard reception that put Hartselle up 28-7. The scoring drive was set up by Luke Bole’s interception of a Fisher pass.
Cullman scored its last touchdown with 10:57 left in the fourth quarter when Russell Miller caught a 5-yard pass from Fisher.
Hartselle’s potent air attack was complemented by an equally solid running game. Sophomore running backs Marquez Jones and Josh Slaten helped Hartselle dominate time of possession in the second half, preventing any chance of a Cullman comeback. Jones finished with 71 yards on 18 carries and Slaten had 41 yards on seven carries and two touchdowns.
Hartselle returns to the road and to region competition this Friday as the Tigers visit Brewer (2-3).