Cleburne County turns momentum on 98-yard march to keep playoff hopes alive with win over rival Alexandria
by Al Muskewitz
Star sports writer
Oct 02, 2010 | 3508 views |  1 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HEFLIN — If the Cleburne County Tigers make it into the Class 4A playoffs this season, they can point to their first touchdown drive Friday night as the vehicle that got them there.

The Tigers put together a flawless, 98-yard scoring march in the second quarter when they hadn’t gotten any offense to that point and it sparked them to a 28-7 come-from-behind victory over Alexandria at L.E. Bell Field.

It was the first of 28 straight points after Alexandria scored on a methodical touchdown drive of its own to draw first blood.

“That was a big drive,” Tigers coach Michael Shortt said. “We’ve got it in us because we had one for like 92, 94 (yards) against Lineville (in the opener); it was one of those type drives. Our kids knew we had it and they talked about it in a timeout we had.

“We just couldn’t get anything going at first. Everything was going exactly the way (Alexandria) planned it to go. ”

Before putting together “The Drive,” the Tigers (4-2, 2-2 region) produced only nine net yards in the six offensive plays they ran in the first 17 minutes of the game. That’s how dominant the Valley Cubs (2-4, 1-3) were early in the game.

Alexandria pinned the Tigers at the 2-yard line after downing a punt, but quarterback Matt Norton directed a 15-play, 98-yard drive that he capped with a 14-yard touchdown run 31.2 seconds before halftime.

The drive featured 13 runs from five different ball carriers and two completions to separate receivers.

Norton said the Tigers only needed one first down to get them going, and Benton Cooley provided it with a 16-yard burst to escape the shadow of the end zone.

“That was the worst start of our whole year and the biggest drive we’ve had the whole year,” Tigers senior tackle Ethan Eaves said. “Even though we were on the 1-yard line, we got together and were like we’ve got to pick it up and get this going.

“I looked at my center, Kyrus (Clark), and my stepbrother, (guard) Stephen Voss, and said we’ve got to make this drive happen. We came together right there as a line and worked together as a team.

“That was a big motivation for us. We got on the sideline and said that was a statement drive right there. As far as Alexandria has come from their first three games (losses), if we come back and get that much movement on somebody like that, we have a chance to beat anybody.”

It didn’t take the Tigers nearly as long to score their next touchdown, but it was just as important to the outcome. Rocky Hayes capped the opening drive of the third quarter with a 29-yard touchdown run to put the home team ahead for good.

They rounded out their 28-unanswered points with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter — a 1-yard, second-effort run by Brayden Walker and a 1-yard run by John Butler with 55.9 seconds to play.

Alexandria took a 7-0 lead with an equally impressive drive.

Justin Bowen’s 1-yard sneak on the first play of the second quarter capped a 16-yard, 57-play drive that consumed more than seven and a half minutes. DeAntae Owens converted two fourth-and-1s to keep it alive.

But from there, the Valley Cubs managed only 32 net yards until the fourth quarter.

“I guess we came out with just a little bit of emotion and I guess it wore off after we got that first touchdown,” Cubs coach Frank Tucker said. “I was real pleased with that first drive, but we just couldn’t sustain any momentum. We just gave it back to them when they scored.”

One bright spot for the Valley Cubs was the emergence of Jarline Lee. A sophomore playing in place of injured leading rusher Dar Harper, Lee rushed for 121 yards on 17 carries.

Harper broke his right hand in practice Wednesday and Tucker was uncertain when the player could return.

“I thought Jarline did real well tonight for his first start, and I thought we blocked real well for him,” Tucker said.

Al Muskewitz is a sports writer for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.
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