Montevallo finishes regular season 9-1, heads to playoffs with momentum

Published 1:36 am Saturday, November 3, 2018

By SETH HAGAN | For the Reporter

MONTEVALLO – The Montevallo Bulldogs knew they couldn’t their region coming into their final regular season contest–that didn’t mean they couldn’t knock off another region champ.

The Class 4A Region 4 champion Lincoln Golden Bears, paid a visit to Montevallo, but the Bulldogs turned our Game of the Week into a rout behind a stellar, balanced offensive night, 42-24.

MHS had to battle back from a slow start, however, as Lincoln came out and drove right down the field in just over four minutes. Shemar Hampton drew first blood from 1 yard out to put the Golden Bears up 7-0 on the road.

The Bulldogs’ offense followed that up with a three-and-out, but bad quickly turned to worse as the ball was snapped high over punter/tight end Eziyah Carter’s head.

Carter attempted to dodge the Lincoln rush, but could only make it back to his own 11-yard line before he was chopped down for the turnover. The Montevallo defense responded in a tough spot pushing the Lincoln offense back for two consecutive negative plays followed by forcing an incompletion and an ensuing field goal.

It may have been nerves or just the first real cold weather game of the year, but Nicholas Page’s 34-yard field goal swung wide right to keep Montevallo within a touchdown.

The following sequence of events can only be described as bizarre as Montevallo’s poor start continued.

After running back Deon Gilliand ripped off a 40-yard run to get the Bulldogs into Lincoln territory another bad snap was fumbled by Malik Inabinette and recovered by the Golden Bears at Montevallo’s 41-yard line.

However, it was the same movie, different act three plays later as a bad snap went awry for Lincoln that was recovered by Montevallo at the Lincoln 49. Still, the Bulldogs’ struggles continued as they mustered one first down and turned the ball over on downs on Inabinette’s third consecutive incompletion.

The second quarter gave new life to the Bulldogs as the defense responded again forcing a punt after just five plays for Lincoln, but a 41-yard punt pinned Montevallo deep in its own territory.

Until then, J.J. Evans had been shut out, but his moment was coming.

After a negative run on first down, the Bulldogs dialed up a long bomb down the left sideline. Evans high pointed the ball perfectly and pinned the ball on the back of his opponent’s helmet, Tyrone Prothro esque, to secure the 40-yard catch as they both fell out of bounds.

MHS kept it on the ground for the next four plays as Inabinette scrambled for a couple of nice runs including a first down. Then, on second down at the Lincoln 34-yard line, Inabinette turned and fired a quick screen pass that found Evans again. The receiver took it from there dancing between several would-be tacklers before waltzing into the end zone.

Inabinette took the 2-point conversion in from 1-yard out after a pass interference call against Lincoln to give Montevallo its first lead of the ballgame, 8-7.

The Golden Bears trotted right back down the field racking up 45 yards on their first four plays, but the drive stalled once again in Montevallo territory as a holding call put them behind the sticks. Two plays later Orlandis Weeks broke through the line for a clutch sack that forced another field goal.

Page made good on his second attempt of the night giving Lincoln a 10-8 lead from 36 yards out. Page forced the Bulldogs to take it the length of the field as he did many times throughout the game, but Montevallo’s last 87-yard drive had given them some serious momentum.

Gilliand turned in his best drive of the night making four double-digit runs as the Bulldogs ran the remaining minutes of the half off the clock.

Gilliand’s 16-yard touchdown run gave the Bulldogs the lead back and Inabinette then found Evans for another 2-point conversion to give Montevallo a 16-10 halftime lead–a lead they did not relinquish.

Lincoln attempted to snatch the momentum back out of the break with a surprise onside kick. The play caught the Bulldogs totally off-guard, but the kick itself traveled only six yards yielding the play useless.

Montevallo took full advantage of its best field position of the night to that point and scored six plays later from 11 yards out on a shovel pass to Gilliand to go up 22-10.

Sensing the game was slipping away, Shemar Hampton took over on Lincoln’s next drive running the ball six times and completing a pass for 45 of the team’s 47 yards.

Cameron Reynolds took the ball in from the 2-yard line to draw the Golden Bears within a score at 22-17 with 5:31 left in the third quarter.

Inabinette threw his lone interception on a deep throw on the ensuing drive’s second play, but, again the defense responded and forced another three-and-out, including another sack, this time from Jamarius Carter.

“Everybody knows about our receiving corps, but it’s a team effort,” head coach Brandon Wilcox said after the game. “When you go 9-1 you don’t go 9-1 because of one player, you got to have everyone bought in and playing their butt off. This is a good football team that’s more than just a one man show.”

With just 58 yards in front of them, the Bulldogs’ offense continued their strong play and scored in just five plays despite a 53 -yard catch and run from Evans that was walked back 22 yards for a block in the back penalty.

Inabinette found Avery Anfield right down the middle from the 20-yard line two downs later to give Montevallo back their double-digit lead for good, 28-17.

Two penalties on the Bulldogs’ kickoff pushed them back to their own 30 and a squib kick gave Lincoln another good opportunity at their own 46, but the Montevallo defense came up big again to seal the deal early in the 4th quarter.

Backed into their own red zone again, the Bulldogs allowed no yards on three consecutive plays to force a third Lincoln field goal. Page’s kick was low and knocked down at the line of scrimmage preserving Montevallo’s lead 12 seconds into the final period.

Another monster 63-yard completion between Inabinette and Evans all but assured the inevitable as the Bulldogs quickly got inside the Lincoln 10-yard line and scored on the next play as Jamarius Carter found the end zone on a quick pass to the outside.

Inabinette added another TD pass on the next drive to Jemari Harris to blow the game open. Inabinette finished 20-of-27 passing, including 18 of his last 21, for 334 yards and four touchdowns adding 48 yards rushing. He also went over 3,000 yards for the season and padded his lead in the state for most passing yards in 2018.

Evans went for 200-plus yards for the third time in four games this time snatching nine receptions for 202 yards, a touchdown and a 2-point conversion. Evans also took the state lead in receiving yards after the big game and finished the regular season with 1,612 yards, a stunning 161 yards per game average.

Deon Gilliand went for 96 rushing yards on 18 attempts with two touchdowns and also grabbed three receptions for 54 yards.

In the moments after the game, Wilcox praised a historical senior class in Montevallo football.

“You look at them, they’ve won 10 games, nine games, a little setback last year with three, but nine wins again this season so I think if you look at a four year stretch this may be the winningest senior class in the history of our school,” he said. “Again, it’s a credit to them, their buy-in and their hard work.”

As the Bulldogs turn their attention to the postseason, Wilcox acknowledged the winning formula from the night’s game would continue to perform in the playoffs.

“We’ve got to focus on us and we’ll scout whoever our next opponent is and see how we can attack them, but I think first off we’ve got to continue to be able run the ball and play good defense and that’ll give us an opportunity against whoever we play,” Wilcox said. “It’s a new season, we’re 0-0 and we’ll see what happens.”

Montevallo (9-1, 5-1) will host the opening round of the playoffs as they welcome the Andalusia Bulldogs next Friday night, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m.

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