Montevallo honors seniors with win over Tarrant to stay alive in playoff hunt

Published 11:40 pm Thursday, November 2, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

MONTEVALLO – With the Montevallo Bulldogs’ playoff fate officially out of their hands after a 41-21 win over the Tarrant Wildcats on Thursday, Nov. 2, Montevallo coach Blake Boren could now simply reflect on the accomplishments of the Class of 2024 as the players who were freshmen when he entered the program in 2020 celebrated their senior night.

“It was good to send our seniors out on a big night,” Boren said. “We started this process with them back in January, and really, they wanted to turn the year around, leave a really good legacy, and I think we did that. We’ve played ten games now and to win seven of them, I think is really, really good. They’ve left a legacy, no doubt. So at this point, we wait to see how our fate ends.”

With the Bulldogs needing a win to stay alive in the playoff hunt, they were powered by great nights from both the air and ground attack. Now, they will wait and see if Sipsey Valley loses to Northside on Friday, Nov. 3, which would give them a playoff spot.

While the seniors played well on both sides of the ball, the two most impressive offensive nights came from a pair of juniors who will lead the team next year.

Razareo Conwell picked up right where he left off from his last two dominant performances with 191 yards and three touchdowns off 27 carries, and Dee Cutts came up with five catches for 124 yards and two scores.

Tarrant threatened to strike first to open the game with a long run to open the game, but the Bulldogs defense settled in from there, and after a holding penalty and a Hunter Lutz sack, the Wildcats were forced to punt.

From there, Montevallo’s offense earned multiple big gains in the air offset by solid runs. Braxton King hit Christian Tolbert for a first down on the second play of the drive, and after a pair of Razareo Conwell first down runs, the Bulldogs got out of a tricky fourth down situation with a 24-yard touchdown from King to Dee Cutts to go up 7-0.

The Bulldogs defense brought the pressure again for a three-and-out to give the offense the ball back. After a 4th-and-1 conversion, King hit Tolbert along the right sideline for a 14-yard receiving touchdown, and the Bulldogs led 13-0 with five minutes left in the first quarter.

Tarrant got another long run into Bulldogs territory, but the Wildcats stalled out from there, and Charlie Adams picked up a third down sack to end the drive. However, the Wildcats pinned Montevallo back on their own 6 with a punt.

That proved crucial after the Bulldogs couldn’t get moving, as they could only punt the ball to their own 27. Tarrant took advantage by driving for a 1-yard rushing touchdown for its first points of the night.

While the Bulldogs didn’t have a response on their next drive, they did on Tarrant’s next series. Keiston Ross picked off a pass and returned it to the 20, and on the next play, Cutts caught his second touchdown of the night to increase the lead to 20-6 with just seconds remaining in the half.

After the halftime break, Montevallo tried to get moving but was forced to punt, but the snap went past the punter. That set up Tarrant with goal to go, and the Wildcats quickly scored to cut the deficit to just seven.

The Bulldogs went three-and-out on their next drive, which gave the Wildcats the ball with the chance to tie the game. They almost did as they threw the ball to the 1-yard line, but a Conwell tackle set up 4th down, and the Bulldogs defense came up with a stop to regain possession.

That flipped the switch for Montevallo, and the Bulldogs were back to their dominant ways. Cutts came up with a catch to move Montevallo to the 30, and then Conwell picked up the rest of the yards on the next two plays, first on a 29-yard carry and then on a punch-in touchdown to extend the lead to 27-13 with time winding down in the third quarter.

Then, another special teams mishap occurred, this time by the Wildcats as they let the ball pass far enough from the spot of the kick to become fair game for anyone to pick up, and Montevallo came up with the ball on the Tarrant 22.

Conwell then quickly picked up another touchdown as the Bulldogs opened the fourth quarter with a score to go up 34-13.

Montevallo dialed up the pressure on the next drive to force a third down sack and a quick punt, and Conwell scored for the third time in the half, this time from 48 yards out, to round out the scoring for the Bulldogs and a 41-13 lead.

While Conwell had a big night with three touchdowns, many of those runs were set up by the passing game in a night that Boren believed was one of King and company’s best.

“I thought the biggest thing they helped Razareo was we threw the ball probably the best we’ve thrown it all year,” Boren said. “I think at the half we had thrown for three or four big explosive plays early, and I thought that generated some stuff in the run game, especially late. We’ve been getting big boxes all year and to take a little pressure off of that I thought was really good.”

Tarrant scored another touchdown after a long run set up a short rushing score and two-point conversion, but it wouldn’t matter as Elfreeman Morton gained multiple first downs on the ground and Charlie Adams iced the game with a final first down run as time expired on the 41-21 Bulldogs win.

In addition to the great nights from Conwell and Cutts, King went 9-for-16 passing for 158 yards and three touchdowns. Christian Tolbert made an impact with three catches for 31 yards and a touchdown.

Over on defense, Charlie Adams and Hunter Lutz both came up big with six tackles each, and Adams added on a sack to his total. Ross had an interception as well as a sack on his lone tackle. After the game, Boren complimented his defense for recovering from mistakes to still hold Tarrant to 15 points, with the other six coming from the bad snap on special teams.

King, Tolbert, Adams and Lutz are four of the many seniors who played their final home game after four successful seasons. Boren said this year’s class raised the bar, as Montevallo historically has only won 48% of its games and the seniors had three seasons with seven or more wins.

He recalled their shared journey at Montevallo and said that he knows they will succeed in whatever they do.

“I remember meeting with them as eighth graders when I first got here right before COVID hit,” Boren said. “I was talking with some of them earlier, and on my phone, I still have the media guide from the very first year. So, we kind of went back and looked at some of the pictures and you just see babies and now you see them, they’re young adults and young men really.

“This is what makes high school football special, because you really see the maturation of a 13, 14-year-old child, and they walk out of your program and they’re a man, and they will go off into the world. This group’s going to be really successful because they’re good kids, they have great character. They’re going to be successful in life.”