The loss was the first of the season for Fultondale. Ranburne and Fultondale now have identical 8-1 overall records and identical 6-1 Region 6 marks entering Week 10.
Wellborn, which edged Ranburne in Week 8, is also 6-1 in Region 6 but 6-3 overall. The tie will not be broken until the conclusion of the regular season but the Bulldogs can improve their chances of winning the tiebreaker by defeating Class 3A Ashville on the road Friday night.
“We’re going to have to play well regardless of records because they’re sitting there thinking they’re playing a 2A school and they’re probably going to play well since it’s their last game,” Ranburne coach Chad Young said of Ashville.
If Ranburne’s players continue to play the way they played against Fultondale, their stay in the playoffs could be a long one.
“We definitely played the best game of the year and we got close to playing where we need to play to be on a level where we can beat anybody,” said Young. “Some of it was how we played and a lot of it was now we played in certain situations. We never let them get any momentum.
They moved the ball some but they only had 170 yards of offense. We did a good job of not letting them hit big plays on us. They typically are a big-play team.”
Ranburne began strong and played strong throughout the contest against Fultondale. The opening kick went to Ranburne and the Bulldogs immediately faced a third-and-10. Quarterback Dylan Wiggins threw deep to running back Dylan Tullis for a 51-yard gain to the Fultondale 10-yard line. On third-and-goal from four yards out, Wiggins rolled to his left looking to throw then scrambled back to the right and scored. The extra point kick was blocked but the Bulldogs had driven 61 yards on six plays in just two minutes. The deep completion to Tullis forced the Wildcats to loosen their defense the rest of the evening.
On their next possession, the Bulldogs put together a 10-play drive that ended when Wiggins’ pass from the Fultondale 5 was intercepted. The pick led to a series of turnovers. First, G.W. Caldwell caused and then recovered a Fultondale fumble at the Fultondale 32-yard line.
Ranburne returned the favor with a lost fumble but on the next play Dalton Wiggins caused another Fultondale fumble and Kyle Lovvorn recovered for Ranburne with 29 seconds left in the first quarter.
This time, there were no mistakes by the Bulldogs. A jet pass to Lovvorn was good for seven yards. Four running plays later, Brady Whittle scored on a 1-yard run with 9:53 left in the second quarter. A pass attempt for a 2-point play was batted down, keeping Ranburne’s lead at 12-0.
Fultondale rallied for a touchdown and an extra point, making the score 12-7. Ranburne answered immediately by taking the ensuing kickoff and marching 61 yards in 11 plays to score. Adam Sheppard got the drive off to a good start with a 14-yard gain on a pass from Wiggins. On third-and-16, Wiggins threw to Lovvorn for 15 yards then picked up a first down at the Fultondale 24 on a quarterback sneak.
A trick play fooled no one. On second-and-10, Wiggins threw to Tullis in the right flat and Tullis used some nifty footwork to score. Wiggins got two more points on a quarterback keeper and Ranburne led 20-7. An exchange of punts left Fultondale with the ball with less than 30 seconds remaining before halftime.
The Wildcats got a long run from their quarterback to reach the Ranburne 6. With no remaining timeouts, Fultondale spiked the ball then had time for one more play. Tyler Connell, Donovan Tullis and Dalton Wiggins combined for the sack that ended the threat and the half.
The stop just before intermission became even more important when Fultondale opened the third quarter with a drive of more than seven minutes that reached the Ranburne 3 before the Bulldogs forced the Wildcats to turn the ball over on downs. From there, Ranburne drove 97 yards in 14 plays to take a 27-7 lead.
The drive didn’t begin auspiciously as two plays produced just seven yards. On third-and-3 at the Fultondale 10, Ranburne inserted its “heavy” short-yardage situation running package then threw to Lovvorn in the right flat for what became a 45-yard gain.
The Bulldogs needed another bit of skullduggery to keep the drive alive. On fourth-and-3 in Fultondale territory, Ranburne faked a punt. The snap went to up back Dalton Wiggins who ran for seven yards and a first down. From there, the Bulldogs ran the ball six consecutive times. At the 5, a play-action pass from Dylan Wiggins to Lovvorn got the touchdown with 9:03 to play and Jake Howle kicked the extra point.
Fultondale had two more possessions. The first ended in a punt. After Ranburne picked up three first downs, the Bulldogs fumbled and Fultondale recovered near the Fultondale 20 with 3:48 to play. The Wildcats were forced to punt again. This time, the snap sailed over the punter’s head and Ranburne added a safety when the punter kicked the ball out of the back of the end zone.
The free kick gave Ranburne the ball with 2:36 to play and two first downs allowed the Bulldogs to run out the cl ock. The Bulldogs finished with 175 yards rushing on 40 carries. Tullis led on the ground with 18 carries for 93 yards. Whittle ran 12 times for 49 yards. Dylan Wiggins ran six times and netted 15 yards. Tyler Connell had one carry for eight yards, Dalton Wiggins two for seven yards and G.W. Caldwell one for three yards.
Dylan Wiggins was 10-for-15 passing for 185 yards with one interception. Tullis made three catches for 87 yards. Lovvorn caught five balls for 84 yards. Adam Sheppard had one catch for 14 yards and Brayden Wilson one for no gain. The offensive line did not allow a sack and held their blocks when Wiggins was forced to scramble.
“They understand more and more that he keeps the play alive and that makes them more aware that they need to continue finishing plays,” Young said of the offensive linemen. “I think they’re starting to all understand he has a unique ability of staying alive because they have a unique ability of helping him stay alive.”
Donovan Tullis led Ranburne on defense with eight tackles. Lovvorn and Zach Patterson had five tackles each. Caldwell, Connell and Cole Yearta each recorded four tackles and Whittle had two.