Benjamin Russell Football vs Pelham

Bejamin Russell running back Demarcus McNeal (21) carries the ball in for a touchdown during an AHSAA football game between the Benjamin Russell Wildcats and the Pelham Panthers at Charles E. Bailey Sportsplex in Alexander City, Ala. on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. Pelham won the game 20-14. [Jake Arthur/ Tallapoosa Publishers]

There is perhaps no better way to symbolize the so-close-yet-so-far nature of Benjamin Russell’s 2021 season than by Thursday night’s fourth quarter against Pelham.

Three times, Benjamin Russell got the ball back down six with a chance to take the lead.

Three times, they couldn’t come through.

Sophomore quarterback Gabe Benton was slammed into the grass of Martin-Savarese stadium for a fourth-and-10 sack with less than 90 seconds to play, and as the 6-foot-3 tower fell so did any hopes the Wildcats had left of making the playoffs. Pelham handed them a 20-14 defeat, their fourth loss in region play, eliminating them from postseason competition.

“When we started in January, we wanted to establish a culture,” Benjamin Russell head coach Aubrey Blackwell said. “A lot of people throw that word around, but culture means that in everything you do, you do your best, you love each other, you fight, you don’t give up. Good culture creates good people, creates good husbands and fathers. And that’s what I mean. They played with what people say ‘Wildcat Pride’ is. And that is, no matter what, you give it all you got.”