No. 4 Southside beats Cullman 28-21
Sat. November 16, 2013 at 12:10 a.m. | By Nick Johnston Sports Writer
Southside’s Saige Dale (24) and Hunter Armstrong (20) bring down Cullman’s Garrett Crider (5) in the Class 5A second-round playoff game in Southside on Friday night. (Photo by Eric T. Wright | Gadsden Times)
SOUTHSIDE — Southside coach Ron Daugherty and the Panther football team taught a little bit of math Friday night.
“It’s a math lesson — three fours is 12,” he said.
Using that approach running the ball, the fourth-ranked Panthers grinded out a 28-21 win over Cullman in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs.
Southside (12-0) lined up in the Wildcat the entire second half, using Dantley Coker and Hunter Armstrong to pound the ball between the tackles. It equaled to two 98-yard scoring drives, another 84-yard scoring march and a spot in the third round of the postseason for just the second time in school history.
“Our kids believe in it,” Daugherty said of the Wildcat, which produced 191 yards and a score for Coker with Armstrong — the team’s middle linebacker — getting 74 yards and a touchdown. “They’re so physical coming off the ball, and we do it over and over — that’s our gameplan. It takes time off the clock and there’s less chance of turnovers. And it’s their payday for what they go through at practice, so they get to take it out on somebody lined up across them.”
Armstrong scored the game-winning touchdown with 1:18 remaining in the contest, taking the direct snap and going around the right side for a 4-yard score.
But Cullman (8-4) had one last chance and started its ensuing drive at the 30. The Bearcats eventually reached midfield with just 7 seconds remaining, and they ran a hook-and-lateral that was fumbled, only to be picked up by wide receiver Auston Neal. The senior sprinted down field and reached the 10 before being stopped by Blake Devine and Holt Keeling with no time left on the clock.
The win meant a home date with McAdory in the quarterfinals next week. McAdory beat Pinson Valley 34-17 Friday night.
“It’s extremely exciting,” Southside offensive lineman Tyler Carr said. “It’s been a blessing for us.”
Carr and the rest of the offensive line imposed their will on Cullman’s defensive front, especially in the second half.
“That’s all we wanted to do, is run the ball at them,” Carr said. “We wanted to see what kind of team they were and wanted to see how their conditioning was — and I think we proved that.”
Cullman was able to match Southside’s physicality, especially in the first half and into the third quarter.
The game was tied at 14 at the half, and after the teams traded punts to open the third quarter, Southside’s Jason Gahaffer intercepted a Tyler Glenn pass at the Panther 2-yard line. From there, Coker ran it 12 straight times out of the Wildcat to get Southside to the 34-yard line. Armstrong gave Coker a break, and the Panthers eventually faced fourth-and-inches from the 15. A delay of game penalty, though, backed it up five yards — forcing Daugherty to go to his bag of tricks.
Coker, lined up in the Wildcat, handed off to Keeling, who then threw a jump pass to Austin Abernathy for a 20-yard touchdown that gave the Panthers their first lead of the game.
“I’m the type of guy who’ll listen to everyone’s ideas and opinions,” Daugherty said. “I’m going to give credit where credit is due: Devine came to me and said, ‘Hey coach, I got a play that I think will be good.’ We had talked about doing a Tebow-type pass with Dantley, but I thought if we hand it off it might be even better. That was Blake’s, and we’ve been reaping it for about five weeks.
“It wasn’t anything we made up on the sidelines,” he added with a laugh.
Abernathy said he had just one thought when the playcall came in: “I hope I catch it,” he recalled.
Cullman struck back after the trick play, tying the game when Glenn — who completed 13 of 24 passes for 235 yards — found Garrett Crider for a 9-yard touchdown. The Bearcats had a chance to go ahead on the Panthers’ ensuing possession after Devine lost a fumble near midfield, but Southside forced three straight incompletions and got the ball back at the 2 to set up the game-winning drive.
“My hat’s off to Southside,” Cullman coach Mark Britton said. “They went out and won the ball game. It was a great ball game, we just came up short.”
Things were heated on the field from the opening kick, with several personal foul and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties being called. But once a dense fog began to settle at Barney Hood Stadium, so did the players.
Cullman struck first on Glenn’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Masion Goodwin.
The Panthers caught a break on the ensuing kickoff, as Cullman was flagged for kick-catch interference on a pooch kick. Southside took over at Cullman’s 39, and Devine — who rushed for 91 yards — needed just one play to cover the distance, streaking around the right end to the end zone.
Cullman struck back on its next possession when Garrett Crider plowed in for a 3-yard touchdown to cap a 10-play, 53-yard drive. After the teams traded punts, Southside began a drive at its own 16-yard line that didn’t stop until Coker leaped into the end zone from the 1-yard line 16 plays and nearly eight minutes later. The key play on the drive came when quarterback Greyson Daugherty found Abernathy for a 28-yard pass on third-and-14 from the 12.
That set up a second half in which Southside did just enough to gain the third round for the first time since 1980.
“We’re just happy to get another chance to play,” coach Daugherty said. “It’s what we’ve been saying all year long. I told them at halftime, ‘Guys, is this not what you want? You want it to come down to where we have a chance late in the game to win, where you can draw back to how much we run you on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday and lifting weights on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday.’ They drew back from that and hammered down.When we face a team that wants to take that, then so be it.”