For the longest time Friday night, it appeared Ranburne’s six-game winning streak over Class 2A, Region 5 opponent and bitter rival Woodland would come to an end. Instead, the Bulldogs awoke from three quarters of lethargy, scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns and defeated Woodland 13-12.
The Bulldogs (2-1, 2-0) host Horseshoe Bend on Friday in another region game. To say the contest is crucial is an understatement. A victory over the Generals would virtually guarantee a return to the playoffs for Ranburne. Prior to Wednesday’s practice, Ranburne coach Stephen Bailey was concerned about his team’s approach to the Horseshoe Bend game.
“This week is so big for our playoff concerns. I was expecting a really, really energized week of practice – everybody up and attentive, that sort of thing – but I haven’t seen it yet,” Bailey said. “We have not been what I think we needed to be this week, especially after what happened (against Woodland).”
Running back Trace Meadows has been the main cog in Horseshoe Bend’s attack, a consistent 100-yard per night rusher. He ran for more than 160 yards in the Generals’ 22-12 loss to Reeltown last week.
“Defensively, if we can hold him under his norm and keep him from breaking two or three I think we’ll have a chance to be in it but if he goes nuts it might get ugly,” Bailey said.
To make Ranburne’s running attack go, “Effort on the front’s going to have to be there and it’s going to have to sustain for the whole game,” Bailey said.
Woodland scored early in the first quarter but the extra point kick sailed wide to the right. The Bobcats’ second score came with 1:41 left in the first half. This time Woodland called a pass but Ranburne’s Brennen Gaines sniffed out that play and forced an incompletion.
There was no scoring in the third quarter but Ranburne was on the move as the quarter ended. With 9:07 to play, Sam Calvert scored on a 2-yard run over the right side of the line. Brock Young then booted what proved to be the winning extra point.
The Bulldogs overcame three penalties on the 62-yard drive including holding calls on successive plays deep in Woodland territory. An 11-yard reception by Calvert got the Bulldogs close to a first down. On a fourth-and-4 call from the Woodland 9-yard line, Josh Ralston completed a short pass to Bradley Martin in the left flat for just enough gain for a first down. Two plays later, Calvert scored.
The remainder of the fourth quarter was an emotional rollercoaster ride. Ranburne forced Woodland to punt then gave up a quarterback sack. The Bulldogs’ punt was short, reaching only the Ranburne 41, but Ranburne’s defense held the Bobcats on downs. Two plays later, Woodland got the ball again with an interception. Unable to gain a first down, the Bobcats punted again, this time to the Ranburne 23.
On the first snap, Ralston spotted Martin alone beyond the Woodland secondary along the home sideline. Martin made the catch then raced into the end zone. With 1:36 to go, Ranbunre led 13-12 after a pass for two more points was incomplete. Once again, the Bulldogs’ defense held on downs and one play in the victory formation exhausted the clock.
Ralston was 8-for-20 passing for 143 yards. Martin’s two receptions accounted for 81 yards. Landon Woodard had three catches for 41 yards. Aaron Benefield ran eight times for 28 yards, Trace McMahan eight times for 22 yards and Calvert eight times for 18 yards. As a team the Bulldogs rushed for just 82 yards.
Calvert’s 10 tackles paced the defensive effort. Woodard and Spencer Jordan each recorded seven tackles. Sean Pollard made six stops and Gaines had five. Ralston, Damon Calhoun and Hayden Simmons had four tackles apiece. Ralston got Ranburne’s only takeaway with an interception on the final play of the first quarter.
CLEBURNE COUNTY FOOTBALL
On the road last Friday, Cleburne County matched Valley’s production in total offense almost to the yard but the Rams scored on a 58-yard pass in the first half then added a field goal in the third quarter and another in the fourth and defeated the Tigers 13-0. Cleburne County finished with 267 yards, 133 rushing and 134 passing. Valley ended with 271 yards, 164 on the ground and 107 through the air.
Cleburne County fell to 0-3 overall and 0-2 in Class 5A, Region 4. The Tigers host Clay Central, last year’s Region 5 champion, Friday.
“The kids are keeping a good mental outlook. They go out here and practice hard every day. They’re giving us everything they’ve got. Everybody out there has. I’m pleased with that,” Cleburne County coach Michael Shortt said prior to Wednesday’s practice. “I think our people understand how young and how thin we are at certain positions.”
Clay Central is coming off a non-region loss to Eufaula, a game Eufaula won on the final play. The Volunteers favor a ground game, from both a wishbone look and a spread attack.
“The put the ball in the hands of their tailback (Cam Peoples) and quarterback (Ben Street),” Shortt said. “When Clay Central gets in the wishbone they do that to let those backs block. … They’re not as big up front as they have been but they don’t have to be because they’re so skilled in their skill-player positions. You have to spread out with them.”
In the game at Valley, A.J. Brown netted 104 yards rushing on 25 carries. Trevor Houston ran seven times for 21 yards. Brock Swafford was 9-for-21 passing for 85 yards. Reese Morrison’s only pass attempt was a completion good for 49 yards. Nick Dunston made four catches for 76 yards. Will Morrow had three receptions for 43 yards and Luke Downey caught one pass for eight yards.
Tackle Grayham Cheatwood and linebacker Cade Smith each made 10 tackles to lead the effort on defense. Houston had seven tackles at safety. Morrow and Zane Farr each had five stops. Dunston, cornerback Anthony Thompson and end Gage Harcrow recorded four tackles apiece.