There were no more first-team players on the field during the final play of Saturday’s spring football game between Benjamin Russell and Cullman but there was still some tension in the air until the final buzzer. The Bearcats had one final chance but saw a pass attempt fall incomplete in the corner of the end zone as Benjamin Russell held on for a 20-13 victory.
“The biggest thing I saw was that we came out and we competed,” BRHS coach Kevin Smith said. “I know it’s just a spring game but when we were between the lines, I thought we competed really well. From Day 1 to here, we’re lightyears ahead of where we were.”
Benjamin Russell appeared to have the edge when both teams had their starters in the game. The Wildcats scored on each of their first two drives to jump ahead 14-0 early in the second quarter.
Carter Smith is expected to take over the starting role at quarterback for the Wildcats in the fall and he got to showcase the new offense right away. Smith completed three passes on the opening drive, including a touchdown pass to Za Stowes to start the scoring with 4:09 left in the first quarter.
“He’s never had varsity live snaps before,” coach Smith said. “I think he’s starting to get it though. Since he didn’t get a lot of playing before, he’s learning the new system and starting fresh which helps him.”
Smith ran the offense for first four drives, leading the Wildcats to three touchdowns. He threw a second touchdown pass in the first minute of the third quarter before being pulled to ease the pain of a lingering injury to his non-throwing shoulder.
Benjamin Russell got its first look at Hezekiah Hunter as the team’s top running back as he moves to the offensive side of the ball this season. Hunter got the ball early and often in both the passing game and rushing attack before capping off his day with a 10-yard touchdown run to put the Wildcats up two scores in the second quarter.
“We didn’t focus as much on the run game as we normally would this season,” Smith said. “We’re getting ready for the summer camps but once we get back for fall, that’s when we can start focusing on the run.”
After Hunter was relieved, the Wildcats turned to a trio of running backs for the second half of the game. Demarcus McNeal got the majority of the action, including 11 carries on the team’s final drive which led to a short touchdown run which was called back for a penalty before fumbling the ball on the next play.
“One of the best surprises to me was the little Demarcus McNeal, who came in near the end,” Smith said. “He’s showing he can earn some reps. He has a few things but we have to put the whole package together for him.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Benjamin Russell’s first team looked as dominant as ever. The Wildcats had three tackles for a loss and forced punts on each of Cullman’s first two drives.
The defense finished the game with four sacks and forced three fumbles but could not create a takeaway. Cullman scored just before the end of the half after a 60-yard rush set up a touchdown pass to cut into the lead and added another touchdown pass to end the third quarter but Smith was still content with how his first team defense played on Saturday.
“They are where they should be right now,” Smith said. “Our biggest issue is depth right now and we had that one injury today on the line. We’re really just one big injury away from no depth at all.”
Pokey Norris was the only player for Benjamin Russell to leave the game due to an injury. He left the stadium on crutches during halftime but Smith said it was just precautionary.