No one said getting that first win would be easy.
Benjamin Russell took a winless record into Chilton County but its team came in missing 23 players for various reasons, according to Wildcat coach Kevin Smith.
Benjamin Russell didn’t waste time jumping on top of Chilton County but had to hang on for a 34-28 win Friday night.
The Wildcats (1-7, 1-4 Class 6A, Region 3) raced out to a 20-0 lead in the first quarter and held a 34-14 lead after Marcus Freeman's 30-yard touchdown reception from Carter Smith with 3:03 left in the game.
The game seemed to turn around after Benjamin Russell’s Jaqavious Smith recovered a muffed punt in plus territory. Benjamin Russell took advantage quickly with a 19-yard scoring run from Dontarious Thomas for a 27-14 lead with 11:04 remaining.
Chilton County (1-7, 0-5) got a pair of touchdown connections from Cannon Miller to Jakeveon Bolding (21 and 14 yards, respectively), the second after a successful onside kick, to pull to within six with 1:49 left.
The Wildcats faced third-and-5 from the Tiger 48 but the Tigers jumped offside, allowing the Wildcats to run out the clock, finally.
“We like to make it interesting,” Smith said. “These guys still come to practice and play their hearts out. We had a lot of freshmen on the field. We’re thin, but that’s no excuse. They did what they had to do in the end.”
The Tigers got help from their defense to start its comeback in the second quarter.
Travon Bostic picked up a Wildcat fumble and returned it 74 yards then capped off a 14-play, nine-minute drive with Hunter Ousley’s 12-yard scoring reception from Sam Smith.
The Tigers trailed 20-14 at halftime despite fumbling the ball five times and losing one. On Benjamin Russell’s first drive of the second half, Tiger defensive back James Grandison Jr. intercepted Carter Smith's pass in the end zone.
Miller completed seven of 14 passes for 103 yards. Bolding caught eight passes for 131 yards. Kevin Staffney rushed for 45 yards on seven carries. Bostic finished with five tackles and blocked a punt.
Freeman started the scoring for Benjamin Russell with a 1-yard reception from Smith, then Malcolm Simmons returned a punt 66 yards for a score and caught a 75-yarder from Smith for another touchdown in the first quarter.
Smith completed 14 of 21 passes for 225 yards and three scores. Simmons caught five passes for 125 yards and Freeman caught seven for 74. Demarcus McNeal had 91 yards on 11 carries. Landon Daniel led the defense with nine tackles.
Benjamin Russell returns home for the final time and plays Calera to finish region play.
“This was big for us,” Smith said. “We said coming into (Friday’s) game to forget about how what happened before. Let’s finish 3-0. We've got to clean up some things from the way we ended, but we’ll enjoy this one.”