Shelby County wins thriller over Sylacauga

The Shelby County Wildcats entered back into region play Friday night with a thrilling 34-28 win over the Sylacauga Aggies.

The stakes remain high for the Wildcats as they in the thick of another Class 5A, Region 4 title. However, the ante was upped with the undefeated Aggies pulling into Columbiana looking for a title run of their own. Shelby County went all in and cashed out with another victory in the end.

“We worked and prepared all week for this game,” Shelby County head coach Ryan Herring said following the win. “We asked a lot of these guys this week and it seems like they had a sense of urgency about them. Tonight, they came ready to play. I’m proud of them.”

What folks heard of the dynamic, athletic Aggie offense quickly became front and center when they served up crowd-silencing scoring drive on the game’s opening possession. Starting from their own 20-yard line, Joshua Crowe cut up the Wildcats’ secondary for a 45-yard touchdown run up the middle.

Just over two minutes into the game, the Aggies held the 7-0 lead.

With the Aggies quick shot over the bow, the Wildcats had to counter. And, they did, quickly, putting together a scoring drive of their own when Braten Dill called his own number 30 yards to pay dirt.

After the missed point-after-attempt, the ‘Cats trailed 7-6.

As the rain trickled down, the Wildcats struck again after an Aggie four-and-out series as they kept pounding the lose turf with their running game play after play. Denzel Williams sped to the end zone on a 27-yard scamper at the midway point in first quarter. Dill connected with Tae Lewis on a two-point conversion to put the Wildcats on top 14-7.

As the second quarter rolled along, the Aggies found themselves on the receiving end of a Wildcat fumble to put them in business at their own 27-yard line.

Sylacauga quarterback Kelsey Pope led the Aggies on a 13-play scoring drive that ended when he darted in from the Wildcat 1-yard line. After a botched point-after attempt, the ‘Cats held the 14-13 lead.

Shelby County answered the bell. Off the heels of a 51-yard halfback pass by Chad King to Kevin McNorton, Lewis hit the end zone from the 1 to add to the

Wildcats’ lead.

After a four-and-out ensuing Aggie possession, 1:26 remained in the half and Dill connected with Lewis on a 43-yard touchdown strike.

Momentum had crept into the Wildcats favor and everyone’s head was on a swivel, but all was cozy with the Wildcats holding the 28-13 halftime lead.

As the second half opened up, Shelby County was in the driver’s seat to establish control over the game. All was well in that aspect until a promising drive was halted when a Dill pass found an Aggie defender.

One play later, Pope swiftly hit the open field for a 30-yard scoring run. The Aggies closed the gap, only trailing 28-21.

The third quarter ended with the Wildcats running 21 plays from scrimmage and the Aggies running one in the quarter.

Just ticks into the fourth the ‘Cats capped off a 15-play drive with Dill shooting up the middle from the Aggie 3 for a touchdown. A missed point-after attempt put the Wildcats out in front 34-21.

An inadvertent whistle on the Wildcats’ next series allowed the late stages of the game to get real interesting. A down was replayed, the ‘Cats fumbled, and the Aggies were right there to take advantage.

With momentum out the door and suspense running rampant, the Aggies wouldn’t go away. D’Morrise Bledsoe hit the end zone from the Wildcat 3-yard line with just over three minutes remaining, still trailing 34-28.

In punt formation with just over a minute to go, McNorton unleashed a 52-yard punt that pinned the Aggies at their own 3.

Pope had Papa McCombs Stadium standing still as he led his team toward the Wildcats’ end zone. However, victory was sealed for the Cats when Josh Reid and Chris McDowell brought down Pope at the Wildcat 36-yard line astime expired.

The Shelby County offensive line cleared the way for 286 yards of rushing on 50 carries. Dill finished the night with 85 yards in the air on 5-of-9 passing attempts. McDowell and DeMonte Ford combined for 156 yards on 29 rushes.

“We were able to get Codey (Foster) back this week and that added some strength to our line,” Herring said of his guys up front. “They are working better as a unit more and more each week and I think tonight showed that.”

“It was an all out effort tonight on both sides of the ball,” he added.

Sylacauga finished the night with 190 yards on the ground via 36 carries, while tossing for 104 yards.