Shelby County defeats Pell City in opener

Just one game into the 2009 season and the Wildcat is truly out of the bag – Shelby County shall not be labeled as “one-dimensional.”

An offseason of planning and preparation looks to have included some tweaking as well.

Suited in their road whites, the Wildcats took to the air and kept it on the ground to steamroll the Class 6A Pell City Panthers 28-0 on their home turf Friday night. The post-game color of the uniforms served as a direct reflection of the soggy playing conditions.

On their opening drive, the Wildcats stuck to their roots of running the football with freshman Brandon Johnson reeling off a 24-yard run on their first play from scrimmage. However, the ‘Cats chose to air it out early on third-and-11 when Braten Dill connected with Tae Lewis for a 43-yard touchdown strike.

Lewis’ one-handed grab and the point-after attempt gave the Wildcats the early 7-0 lead.

After collecting a safety on behalf of the Panther punt team, both teams battled it out on the saturated field as the first quarter came to a close. As the second quarter rolled on, the Wildcats found themselves pinned deep in their own territory after a Panther punt.

Faced with first-and-10 at his own 4-yard line, Dill shook a defender and found Lewis on an option pitch en route to a 96-yard touchdown run. Lewis’ second score of the night gave the Wildcats a comfy 16-0 lead going into the half.

Notably, the Wildcats pressuring, blitzing defense only allowed 21 yards of total offense for the Panthers at the halfway point.

Four minutes into the fourth quarter Dill struck again when he found Denzel Williams for a 61-yard touchdown toss. Johnson hit the end zone with the final seconds on the clock with a 13-yard scamper up the middle.

Despite the waterlogged playing conditions, the Wildcats found their niche offensively – play action – and went with it.

“We couldn’t get our running game going like we wanted to, so we had to go to a lot more play action,” Wildcat head coach Ryan Herring said. “We had some big plays with the play action, but have to get our inside running game going a little better.”

Defensively, the Wildcats provided pressure for the Panther offense that was crucial in the shutout win.

“We thought if we could mix up some things on defense and keep some pressure on them, it would help and, obviously, tonight it did,” Herring mentioned of his defense.

The Wildcat offense rolled up 340 yards of total offense on the night and Dill was a perfect 5-for-5 with two touchdowns. A stingy Wildcat defense allowed only 100 yards of total offense.

All eyes in Shelby County and Class 5A, Region 4 will be focused on next Friday night when Shelby County travels to take on the Briarwood Lions.