That’s exactly what Alexandria did and the Bulldogs weren’t able to step up the attack. In the end, Alexandria rushed for 255 yards in a 21-12 road victory.
“If they stopped us, we had some passes we could have thrown, too,” Tucker said. “As long as we were getting yardage on the ground we were going to keep running, but we weren’t afraid to throw.”
For the second straight game Alexandria’s offensive line opened hole after hole allowing the Valley Cubs’ tailbacks to pick up chunks of yards at a time.
After Alton Davis’ 1-yard touchdown run was the only score in the first half, Alexandra (2-2, 2-1 Class 4A, Region 5) took the ball 66 yards on 12 plays on its first drive of the third quarter. It spanned more than six minutes and included seven runs of 5 yards or more, ending with Tyrelle Gay scoring from 7 yards out.
With Alexandria up 12-6, Anniston (2-2, 1-2) turned the ball over on downs on its ensuing drive and Alexandria ran the ball some more. The Valley Cubs didn’t stop until Gay found the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter.
“We were just beating ourselves in the first half with penalties and fumbles, so once we eliminated those penalties and fumbles we started clicking,” Tucker said. “I thought our offensive line played a heck of a game. Our defense kept us in it early so we played well on both sides of the ball.”
All wasn’t bad for Anniston, however.
After the Bulldogs had 2 yards of offense in the first half, they returned the third quarter kickoff for a touchdown when Darius Carter fielded the squib kick, tossed the ball back to Domonta Miller, and Miller returned it 70 yards.
“We knew they were going to kick the ball short to stay away from our threats,” Anniston coach Eddie Bullock said. “We just wanted to make sure we gave ourselves the best chance on the play.”
After Alexandria’s next two drives were touchdowns, Anniston’s responded nearly immediately in the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs, who had only two first downs in the game at that point, quickly picked up its third before quarterback Quint Dobbins and tailback Donovan Lucas connected for a big play. Dobbins hit Lucas on a screen pass and the running back crossed the field through traffic and sprinted all alone to the end zone. It went for 66 yards.
“We went in at halftime and talked about playing with pride,” Bullock said. “Part of being young is taking things for granted and I’ve got to find a way to motivate them to stay focus. That’s the hardest thing with them. They’ll come out and they’re just not focused.”
Although the score was close, 18-12, Anniston had still not stopped Alexandria’s run game, which the Bulldogs were reminded of the following drive.
The Valley Cubs picked up four first downs in the first eight plays before Anniston eventually stopped the attack in the red zone. The 12-play, 65-yard drive ended with Gabe Marchal nailing a 20-yard field goal. The drive took nearly seven minutes off the clock.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” Bullock said about not stopping the run. “They didn’t do a thing that we didn’t expect. They ran maybe three plays and we just didn’t execute. We’ve got to fix that.”
Anniston’s last shot at a comeback was ended with Austin Wells intercepted a pass with fewer than two minutes remaining.
“This is huge for our confidence because we have so many young kids,” Tucker said. “It’s good for them to see that if we work hard and do the right things then we can win.”
Dobbins finished the night for Anniston with 78 yards through the air and a touchdown on 5-of-24 passing. Lucas led the rushing game with 17 yards on three carries and also had a 66-yard touchdown catch.
Davis led the Valley Cubs rushing game with 77 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown. Marchal had 67 yards on the ground and 38 yards receiving. Gay finished the night with two scores and 63 yards on 15 carries.
Both teams take a break from Region 5 play next week as Anniston travels to Class 4A Handley and Alexandria plays Class 3A Saks on the road.
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star