Shelby County defense makes late stop for 2-point win against Montevallo

By ANDREW SIMONSON | Special to the Reporter

COLUMBIANA – In a night of remembrance for Shelby County’s seniors, it was hard not to recall 2019’s wild 56-50 affair that happened exactly one year ago between the Wildcats and Montevallo Bulldogs.

It seemed impossible to top that memorable contest, but the two gave it their best when meeting on Saturday, Aug. 29. But this time around, it came in a defensive battle, as the two teams combined for 38 points. And while the Wildcats struggled defensively the last few years, they started the 2020 season off on the right foot with a 20-18 win behind several big defensive stops.

“It wasn’t our best game,” Shelby County head coach Heath Childers said. “We had a lot of sloppy plays, especially second half on offense, we missed a lot of tackles. But just the resolve this team showed was a huge positive, because we lost a lot of close games last year.”

The story of the first half was almost entirely written on the ground, and that was thanks in large part to Shelby County backs Tyrese Goodman and Raheem Montgomery.

Montgomery carried the bulk of the yards in midfield, as Montevallo’s defense let him run for four carries of more than 10 yards in the first half.

Goodman took over inside the red zone for the Wildcats, scoring both of Shelby County’s first-half touchdowns, but he tweaked his ankle after the second score and remained limited the rest of the game.

Montgomery finished with 138 yards on 17 carries, while Goodman chipped in 89 yards on eight attempts.

Montevallo struggled to get going early, with the Bulldogs’ first two drives being three-and-outs. However, the third time proved to be the charm, as running back Joseph Anderson ended the drought with a rushing touchdown to bring the score to 14-6 Shelby County at halftime.

The Bulldogs wasted no time in making a statement to start the second half thanks to KamRon Goins blowing past the Wildcats special teams to score a 70-yard kick return touchdown.

Montevallo coach Blake Boren said after the game that return changed the momentum of the football game. Back within two points, the Bulldogs capitalized on a Wildcats’ punt to send running back Orlandis Weeks on a 25-yard touchdown run that gave Montevallo its first lead of the season.

Now up 18-14, Montevallo fumbled the ball on its next offensive snap and the Wildcats turned that into a fourth-down rushing touchdown from Montgomery a few plays later to regain the lead at 20-18.

The real drama in the game came in the 15-play, nearly 10-minute final drive put together by Montevallo. An early Desmond Rodgers sack was nullified by a 21-yard explosion from Weeks, which set up the Bulldogs in Shelby County territory.

But the Shelby County defense stepped up to the plate thanks to a big sack from J.T. Pennington and two pass breakups to force a turnover on downs, including a batted pass from Isaac Montgomery as he covered his receiver in the end zone.

After the game, Childers said that the stops were made due to defensive adjustments they made in response to Montevallo exploiting multiple matchups over the drive.

Childers expressed relief that his team got out with a win and was grateful to give his boys their first win tonight, on senior night, nonetheless.

As for Boren, he was pleased with the effort after last week’s season opener was canceled due to COVID-19.

“We’re obviously very disappointed in the loss, but I’ve never been prouder of a group of boys,” he said. “We’ve been shut down 10 days with COVID. We did not think this game would happen, but now we have something to build off of. We can coach kids who play with effort and tonight we played with effort.”