With the win, the Tigers positioned themselves for a stretch run toward a home game in the opening round of the AHSAA 4A playoffs. That run begins Friday at longtime rival Alexandria (2-4, 2-2) then continues with a home game against playoff contender Jacksonville (5-1, 3-1) and ends on October 25 at improving Lincoln (2-4, 2-2).
Cleburne County head coach Michael Shortt said Alexandria moved the ball on two long drives but couldn’t score in the first half of last week’s 36-0 loss to Munford and that the Lions scored late in the second quarter to extend a 7-0 lead to 14-0 at halftime.
“I fully expect when we go out there to play that we’re going to get their best and they’re going to get our best. It should be a typical Cleburne County-Alexandria game,” Shortt said.
“All I can see is the same offense they’ve been running. Nothing’s changed, not one thing. I have to go into the game expecting them to execute flawlessly just like I did when we played Cherokee County and that’s what Cherokee County did.”
Shortt said he didn’t think the Tigers would fall into the trap of looking past Alexandria to the Jacksonville game.
“If it was anybody else, I would think that but it being Alexandria I don’t think that’ll be a problem. It’s just too big a natural rivalry for us,” the coach said. “Our kids understand this win this week is the most important game we have because we’ve got to win this one just to get into the playoffs. Then we’ll worry the next week about seeding and home field advantage.” Against Hokes Bluff, Cleburne County benefitted from good field position almost immediately. A high snap on a punt attempt put the Tigers in business at the Hokes Bluff 33-yard line. It took only three plays to cover that distance. Brandon Horn scored on a 17-yard run. Anderson Jacks, who was 5-for-5 on extra points for the contest, made it 7-0.
In the second quarter, the Tigers got another quick score, going 54 yards in four plays. Trey Bolton capped the drive with a 12-yard run. Quarterback Brady Padgett had a 17-yard carry along the way.
Late in the second quarter, Cleburne County put together one of its patented long scoring drives. This one covered 92 yards over seven plays. Just before intermission, a 9-yard pass from Padgett to Christian Henson produced the Tigers’ third touchdown. Jeremiah McLeroy made a spectacular over-the-shoulder grab of a 32-yard Padgett pass, tight-roping his way along the Hokes Bluff sideline. Henson picked up 21 yards on a reception in addition to his touchdown catch and Bolton had a 12-yard run.
“Probably the biggest drive for us was our last drive of the half,” Shortt said. “With two minutes (on the clock), we had a 90-something yard drive, had a good two-minute drill, took it down and scored and made it 21. I felt comfortable then, the way we were playing defensively.”
Hokes Bluff got the only points of the third quarter on a time-consuming drive, cutting Cleburne County’s advantage to 21-7. Shortt said the Eagles didn’t have another first down the remainder of the night.
In the fourth quarter, Padgett completed a 12-play, 69-yard drive with a 1-yard run. A pass from Padgett to Cameron Kerr on a deep drag route was good for a gain of 34 yards. Bolton came out of the backfield to catch a swing pass and turn it into a 14-yard advance. The Tigers’ final points came late when reserve Noah Ware took a handoff 49 yards into the end zone, ending a 53-yard drive in three plays. The scoring opportunity came after an interception by senior Isaiah Ware.
Bolton gained 120 yards on 14 carries. Noah Ware’s scoring run was his only carry. Padgett netted 29 yards on six tries. Horn gained 25 yards on four rushes.
Padgett was 8-for-12 passing for 145 yards with two interceptions. Henson was his favorite target with four receptions for 60 yards. McLeroy finished with two catches for 37 yards. Kerr’s 34-yard catch was his only reception as was Bolton’s 14-yard grab.
Once again, the Tigers’ defense placed a lot of tacklers around the ball. Geoffrey Teague and Grant Corkren led with nine stops apiece. Chad Brown finished with eight tackles and Alex Sandmann had seven.
Henson, Cole Corkren and Griffin Turner each had six tackles. Drake Williamson and Matthew Shortt made five tackles apiece. McLeroy and Isaiah Ware finished with four tackles each.
Isaiah Ware intercepted two Hokes Bluff pass attempts and Cole Corkren had one pick.