Less than a minute later, Ranburne had the ball again at the Sheffield 17-yard line. The Bulldogs covered that distance in four plays. Tullis crossed the goal line from three yards out with 6:47 still to play in the first quarter and Kyle Lovvorn ran for a 2-point conversion.
“Before they could turn around, it was 15-0,” Ranburne coach Chad Young said.
In the second quarter, Sheffield intercepted a Ranburne pass near the goal line to kill another Ranburne threat. The next time Ranburne got the ball, the Bulldogs drove 74 yards in 10 plays to up their lead to 22-0. Wiggins passed to Tullis for a 30-yard gain before Brady Whittle ran for 24 yards and a first down at the Sheffield 1. On the next play, Whittle scored and Howle’s kick gave Ranburne its 22-0 halftime lead.
Life didn’t get easier for Sheffield in the second half. Two minutes into the third quarter, Ranburne took over at the Ranburne 43. A 13-play drive, lasting more than five minutes, ended on a 4-yard run by Wiggins. Whittle’s 10-yard gain was the longest single play in the scoring march. With 4:30 still to play in the third quarter, it was 28-0 Ranburne.
A punt return put Ranburne at the Sheffield 33. Tullis ran twice, the second time for 27 yards, and Ranburne led 35-0 as Howle made the first of three consecutive kicks.
Sheffield got its first touchdown late in the third quarter. Tullis returned the ensuing kickoff to the Sheffield 30 on the final play of the third quarter. The first play of the fourth quarter became a 30-yard touchdown pass from Wiggins to Sheppard. Ranburne’s final touchdown came on a 65-yard completion from Wiggins to Brayden Wilson with 8:24 to play.
“I thought we played very well at times. We still had a punt that got blocked and we still threw an interception and we still didn’t take care of the football as well as we need to. Our defense bailed us out a couple of times on turnovers in the first half. Overall, you’ve got to be happy scoring 49 points and really we didn’t give up any. We gave up 12 against some substitutes,” Young said. “I think we’ve gotten better every week. I don’t guess we’ll ever reach perfection but I guess we played better.”
Tullis ran 28 times for 202 yards, all in the first three quarters. Wiggins netted 48 yards on seven tires. Whittle finished with 43 yards on eight carries.
Wiggins was 6-for-12 passing for 145 yards with one interception. Wilson’s touchdown grab was his only catch as was Tullis’ 30-yard reception. Sheppard had two catches for 44 yards and Lovvorn two for six yards.
“We’ve got so many people playing well it’s hard to single out,” Young noted. “Dylan Tullis had 202 yards rushing, I think, so obviously we blocked well. Because we can throw the ball, he gets yardage because they can’t pack the box with defenders. The only reason we’re able to throw it is because we’ve got some good receivers to throw it to. When you mention one, you have to understand that it’s a microcosm of the whole picture.”
Cole Yearta led on defense with a quarterback sack and eight other tackles. Lovvorn and Zach Patterson made seven tackles apiece. Each broke up a pass and Lovvorn recovered a fumble.
Wilson and Dalton Wiggins had six tackles each. Whittle and Dalton White made five stops apiece. Tyler Connell, Donovan Tullis, Devin Rehberg, Logan Otwell and Dylan Wiggins each made four tackles. Dylan Thrower had three tackles. Trent Williams, Austin Jordan and G.W. Caldwell finished with two tackles each.
The Bulldogs, now 10-1, meet Montgomery Academy, also 10-1, Friday in Ranburne. The Eagles finished second to Lanett (11-0) in Region 5.
Montgomery Academy advanced with a 35-21 win over Sand Rock but needed three fourth-quarter interceptions, one for a touchdown, to secure the victory.
“Offensively, they’re pretty wide open, score a lot of points. … Defensively, they make it tough on you. They just don’t give up anything easy,” Young said.
The Eagles seem to prefer keeping the ball on the ground with either senior running back Justin Woolfolk (5-foot-9, 175 pounds) or junior quarterback Josh Thomas (6-foot, 190) doing most of the work.
Thomas was outstanding against Sand Rock. He ran for 158 yards on 17 carries and was 8-for-16 passing for 121 yards. Woolfolk netted 77 yards on 20 carries against Sand Rock but has more than 1,500 yards on the ground this year in leading Montgomery Academy back to the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Woolfolk gained 163 yards on 28 carries in Week 10’s win over arch-rival Trinity Presbyterian but had just 60 yards in the loss to Lanett and 81 yards in a close 13-7 win over Randolph County. Young said junior Sam LaPlatney (5-9, 150) has emerged as a solid receiver for the Eagles.
Randolph County coach Pat Prestridge said his team focused on stopping the running game against Montgomery Academy when they met in Wedowee in Week 6. He said Thomas and Woolfolk each possess 4.5 to 4.6 speed and that containing them before they could get into and open-field situation was important. He also recalled that at halftime his offensive linemen said Montgomery Academy’s defenders were the strongest group they had faced all season. Just as they have all year, the Bulldogs seem to have taken last week’s victory and this week’s challenge in stride – despite the very positive buzz their success has created in the community.
“This is going to sound negative, I guess, but it’s really positive,” Young said. “It’s like we’re playing in a region game. … We’ve tried to get our players to just do what we’ve been doing, just try to do the ordinary. That’s the way we’re practicing and I hope that’s the way we play. … We want to prepare and play like we’ve been playing and whatever happens happens.”
Ticket procedures at playoff games for November 14
• Everyone planning to attend Friday’s football playoff games in Heflin and Ranburne should be aware that the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) sets the ticket prices and that each host school must follow all the rules and procedures established by the AHSAA.
• Tickets for Friday’s games will be $8. Everyone, including regular-season season ticket holders, must by a ticket. AHSAA passes for coaches, administrators and retired coaches and administrators are the only passes that can be honored.
• There will be no reserved seats and placing blankets or stadium seats in the seating areas prior to the game will not be permitted. There will be no passes to leave the game and return. Anyone who leaves will have to purchase another ticket to re-enter.
• At Ranburne, Harlen Robinson Field will open at 5 p.m. The gates at L.E. Bell Field in Heflin will open at 5:30 p.m.