And the Anniston coach must have found an equation that worked for him in Friday’s second half. That’s when Anniston exploded and burned Cherokee County 41-0 at Lott-Moseby Memorial stadium in the first round of the AHSAA Class 4A state playoffs.
“We made some adjustments at half time,” said Bullock, “and we kind of got things rolling, and everything just fell into place.
Of course you don’t have to have a science degree when you have the football equivalent of nitroglycerine wearing No. 24. It’s just a matter of handing him the ball.
But No. 24, Anniston’s all-star tailback Troymaine Pope, was held out for most of the first half for what Bullock described as “team reasons.”
The Anniston (7-4) offense looked anemic in the first quarter and didn’t score until a Denzel Roberts found an opening and ran 40 yards for a touchdown midway through the second quarter.
Pope first came in on defense late in the second quarter when Cherokee County (5-6) first threatened inside the redzone. The Bulldogs’ defense held strong though, and Cherokee County missed short on its field goal attempt.
“It’s probably the best defensive game we’ve played all year,” said Bullock of the shutout. “We had a good defensive game early in the year against Alexandria, and we’ve had spurts against Oneonta, but this was the most complete game that we’ve played probably since I’ve been here.”
With Pope back on the field, the entire offense looked electrified; the Bulldog’s star back ran for 42 yards on his first carry. He finished with 269 yards on nine carries.
A few plays later Roberts capped off the drive that took a matter of minutes and gave the Bulldogs a 13-0 lead going into the half after a missed PAT.
“You just got to get all 11 people looking at him,” Cherokee County coach Tripp Curry said of Pope. “That’s all there is to it, you have to have all eyes on him, and we did and it’s still just tough cause he’s a good ball player.”
Anniston took the kickoff to start the second half, and the Bulldogs’ first play from scrimmage was a simple handoff to Pope. But even the simplest of reactions can cause an explosion. Pope scampered around defenders, broke some tackles and ran 66 yards for his first touchdown.
The defense held Cherokee County to a three-and-out on the ensuing drive. After the punt, Anniston’s next play from scrimmage was the same as their first of the half and had nearly the same result: A 78-yard touchdown run from Pope that ran straight through the middle of the Warrior defense and across to the right sideline and into the endzone. Anniston quarterback Spencer Howard ran in the two-point conversion and with just more than two minutes gone in the second half, Anniston had a 28-0 lead.
With Cherokee County unable to get their passing game going, there was no overcoming the Bulldogs’ lead.
“It was hit and miss,” said Curry. “I thought the passing game was good at times but then we dropped some balls and we made some bad passes at times.”
With the win, Anniston advances to travel to Dora (9-2), a 34-14 winner over Brooks.
Bullock said if his team can just stay focused they can beat anyone they play.
“Yeah, we’re coming in, we’re just going to fight hard,” said Pope. “We’re coming in scratching, clawing doing whatever we have to do to win. We’re expecting to win next week.”
Bobby Bozeman covers prep sports for The Star. Follow him on Twitter @Bozeman_Star.