Wildcats eliminated by Boaz

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Shelby County watched as Boaz squashed a potential game-winning drive, intercepting a Dane Vansant pass late in the fourth quarter and ending the Wildcats’ season last Friday night.

Boaz took a knee to run the remaining seconds off the clock and win the second-round, Class 4A playoff game, 21-17.

In a game that saw four lead changes, Shelby County coach Geoff Walters said big plays were the deciding factor.

&uot;In a game like that it usually comes down to one or two plays that make the difference,&uot; Walters said.

Boaz quarterback A.J. Milwee struck the Shelby County defense hard in the second quarter, accounting for two touchdown plays of more than 40 yards.

The first came on

a 42-yard run and the second on a 45-yard pass to Bradley Mixon.

But the Wildcats were not without big plays of their own.

Erick Hernandez nailed a 42-yard field goal for the game’s first score. And Michael Gaiters romped 39 yards for a Shelby County touchdown to give the Wildcats an early 10-0 lead.

Derek Harris put the Wildcats back on top in the second half after Boaz’s 14-point second quarter.

Harris took an inside handoff and rushed 12 yards for the touchdown.

But Milwee struck again in the fourth, tossing a 49-yard pass to set up his 8-yard run for the game’s final score.

Shelby County had two more opportunites to come back but both drives ended with turnovers in Boaz territory &045; the first a fumble and the second, the game-ending interception.

Vansant was 9-of-14 for 116 yards on the night.

Harris rushed 9 times for 31 yards and Gaiters had 6 carries for 88 yards.

Brandon Burns led Shelby County receivers with 3 catches for 47 yards.

Walters said the loss was tough to swallow but that he was proud of his team for winning back-to-back Class 4A, Region 5 titles.

&uot;Any time you finish 9-3, it’s hard to complain,&uot; he said. &uot;But on the other hand, we feel like we were one play away from being in the third round.&uot;

The Wildcats were a perfect 7-0 in region play this season.

&uot;We’re proud of where our program has evolved to,&uot; Walters said. &uot;I appreciate the job my (assistant) coaches have done.&uot;

This season marked the Wildcats’ last in Class 4A, Shelby County will compete in 5A next year.

A third straight region title won’t come easy for the ‘Cats, they will compete in the same division as 5A powers Briarwood Christian and Homewood.

Although Shelby County will be the smallest school in Class 5A, they won’t be completely unprepared for the jump, Walters said.

Six starters will return on each side of the football for the Wildcats.

The most touted of which, may be Burns, a defensive back/receiver who finished the season with seven interceptions. He also hauled in 26 receptions for 284 yards and four touchdowns, two of which came in the fourth-quarter comeback win against Haleyville in the first round of the playoffs.

&uot;(Burns) was a huge player for us,&uot; Walters said.

Vansant will also return to lead the offense along with Marc Lemley, who plays both ways.

Walters said team captains Davey Horton and Sean McKinley did an &uot;excellent job of providing senior leadership both on and off the field&uot; and will be missed by the Wildcats.

Fellow seniors Rico Crumpton and Harris are also key players that the Wildcats will lose to graduation.

Harris came back to finish the season despite losing a finger tip in a play earlier in the year