Montevallo holds off Shelby County with last second stop

Published 1:57 am Saturday, September 2, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

COLUMBIANA ­– It may not have always been pretty in the steady rain, but the latest edition of one of the county’s best rivalries delivered with plenty of late drama.

The Montevallo Bulldogs held off the Shelby County Wildcats, 13-10, on the road at Wildcat Stadium in Columbiana on Friday, Sept. 1 as the Wildcats made a late push for the end zone.

With mere seconds remaining and the clock draining, Shelby County quarterback Ryan Sipes’ pass inside the 10-yard line to Devan Alexander was caught, but he was met immediately by Montevallo’s Buck Ross and wrapped up to ensure the clock hit zero.

“We’ve been working on this game a long time,” Montevallo coach Blake Boren said. “It took everybody on our team banding together to do what we had to do to be successful. And it was nothing schematic. It was just our kids playing their butt off, and that was really the theme of the night. It was sloppy for us all night. We struggled on offense, we struggled on defense, but the fact that we had the will to come together at the end and play at the end was big for our team.”

The stop came after a promising Shelby County drive with 1:39 left on the clock which saw Sipes and the Wildcats march from their own 30 to near the goal line.

The drive started with a short gain to Anthony Palmieri on first down, and on third-and-two, Sipes launched a deep ball to Dominic Woods, who caught it for 41 yards to get Shelby County moving.

On the Wildcats’ next third down, Sipes earned a first down on a quarterback keeper, and when he was pressured on the next play, he escaped the pocket and got a second first down on his legs to land the offense on the six-yard line.

The Wildcats kept the clock rolling with a run from Alexander, and two plays later on third down, the Bulldogs got the stop.

Shelby County got themselves into position a couple of drives before that as Sipes hit Palmieri for 28 yards and then found Woods for a 15-yard touchdown to make the score 13-10.

Before that, Montevallo led 13-3 thanks to two crucial second half scores.

The Bulldogs opened the half with a bang thanks to Christian Tolbert returning the second half kickoff for over 75 yards for the touchdown to give Montevallo a 7-3 lead.

After the Wildcats turned the ball over on downs, Montevallo running back Razareo Conwell found space and outran everyone as he reeled off a 78-yard touchdown just two plays into the drive to extend the Bulldogs’ lead to 13-3.

The scores came after a quiet first half from both offenses as the rain came down. After Shelby County opened the game with a punt, Montevallo looked set to do the same before the snap went into the back of the end zone. The Bulldogs recovered it and ran it out to the 15-yard line, where the Wildcats took over.

Shelby County had a perfect opportunity to get into the end zone after advancing the ball to the two-yard line on the drive, but an illegal procedure penalty on third and goal backed up the Wildcats and forced a TJ Minton field goal in the red zone.

With the Wildcats now up 3-0 midway through the first quarter, they forced another Montevallo punt before Sipes attempted to get the deep ball going to Woods. Unfortunately for Shelby County, they missed on back-to-back plays in coverage and had to punt.

On the next Bulldogs drive, they looked ready to advance the chains for the first time in the game, but two pre-snap penalties on third and short forced a punt.

Shelby County tried to move quickly in Montevallo territory, but Deterrius Cutts broke up a pass on second down before intercepting the Wildcats on an end zone shot on the next play.

Montevallo started getting Braxton King and their passing game going on their next drive with first down catches from Javon Rogers and Keiston Ross. However, another presnap penalty on first down killed the drive’s momentum and the Bulldogs had to give the ball away.

The Bulldogs responded quickly to the Wildcats regaining possession in opposing territory as Cutts intercepted Sipes for a second time in coverage in the end zone.

From there, the teams traded punts until the half to cap off what even Boren admitted was a slow start from both sides.

“The whole team has to get better,” Boren said. “That’s been our M.O. here. We’ve started slow. Tonight, to see it go our way, we still didn’t play our best football. We’re a work-in-progress. But we’re excited about being a work-in-progress. We have good kids and all the stuff we can clean up on tape. What you can’t clean up are the kids in the locker room, and we have a good group in the locker room.”

Conwell led the way for the Montevallo offense with 96 yards and a touchdown off 11 carries. King finished with 5-for-13 passing for 45 yards, and three of those completions were to Rogers, who led the Bulldog receivers with 33 yards.

On defense, Cutts took charge with his two interceptions and three tackles. EJ Morton led the Bulldogs in tackles with nine, while Charlie Adams was close behind with eight. Nylan Hill-Goode and Ross each picked up a sack as well.

For Shelby County, Sipes went 15-for-31 passing for 136 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions. Alexander rushed for 48 yards off 22 carries while also staying active as a pass-catcher.

Both teams will hope to use this game to get on the right track for region play next week, as Montevallo travels to Hale County on Sept. 8 and Shelby County visits Holtville in their region opener.