Archived Story

Benjamin Russell falls in final moments

Published 12:11am Saturday, November 3, 2012

By Jeff Sentell/Birmingham News

Homewood has got it going this season.

The Patriots won their ninth straight game Friday in the Game of the Week against previously unbeaten Benjamin Russell.

The Class 5A, Region 4 champions claimed a 28-21 victory in a game where the level of play fit a couple of playoff rounds deeper into November and not the final week of the regular season.

That’s what happened. How it all went down would have any ball coach smiling afterward.

“We had our backs to the wall and found a way to pull it out,” Homewood coach Doug Goodwin said. “It has been mighty easy for us up to this point for most of the year. We really needed a game like this where we really had to fight for it.”

When junior Walter Rutledge, Jr. used his 33rd carry of the game to score from a yard out with 24 seconds left to play, it sent Waldrop Stadium into a frenzy not seen around that part of town since 2005.

The 217-pounder then ran in the two-point conversion for the final margin. He finished with 160 yards and two touchdowns.

“Walter was a workhorse again tonight,” Goodwin said. “He’s been that all season but he was really the workhouse in this game. He’s hard to tackle and very dependable. I’m glad we have him on our team.”

Rutledge carried it that many times because of a foot injury to senior speedster Justin Hardy. Hardy had averaged 11 yards per carry for his 900 yards and 17 touchdowns coming into Friday night’s game.

The junior had been the power back to complement the quick guy. He’d piled up more than 600 yards and 10 touchdowns through nine games.

Hardy had one carry against the Wildcats. That put the burden on Rutledge. He had 17 carries and the half and ran five times on a game-winning drive that began at the Homewood 38 with 4:38 to play.

“I’m so tired,” Rutledge said. “I had to suck it up and go but now that it is over I am going to go home and sleep all night. I want to get in my bed and sleep for about 12 hours.”

Homewood’s depth at running back allowed him to save his wind for that drive. Cornerbacks Devonta Barnfield-Rapley and Orlando Swann also carried the ball in big spots for the Patriots.

Benjamin Russell (9-1) forced the late drama after finally breaking through in the fourth quarter. Junior quarterback Bryant Horn turned a second-and-21 at the Homewood 42 into a big play when he found junior LaJarett Ford for a 40-yard gainto the 2. He snuck in from two yards on the next snap. The extra point gave the Wildcats a 21-20 lead with 4:51 to play.

Benjamin Russell had just 190 yards against Homewood, including 101 rushing yards on 30 carries. The visiting team scored first on a 29-yard run from Briquez Alvies on the team’s second snap of the game.

That short drive was set up by a 66-yard kickoff return from Jeremiah Leonard. Alvies split the Homewood coverage team for a 96-yard kickoff return for Benjamin Russell’s second touchdown of the first quarter.

“Our team showed heart,” Benjamin Russell coach Danny Horn. “They’ve been doing that all year long. We never quit. We are going to play hard. But I just think their size on the offensive line just took a toll on us a little bit at the end, but we played hard.”