Springville finds Cleburne County too Rocky; Tigers hoping to land home playoff game
by Rip Donovan
Sports Correspondent
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Cleburne County s Rocky Hayes had a school record 281 yards rushing and 346 all-purpose yards in last week s win over Springville.
Cleburne County's Rocky Hayes had a school record 281 yards rushing and 346 all-purpose yards in last week's win over Springville.
Records fell like stars on Alabama at Springville last Friday. Junior tailback Rocky Hayes set two individual records and the Cleburne County Tigers established two team marks in a 49-34 win over Springville.

The team rushing total was a record 529 yards. That total, plus 79 yards passing, combined for a total offense record of 608 yards.

Hayes gained a single-game rushing record 281 yards on 18 carries. He added 55 yards on a pass reception and 10 yards on kick returns for 346 all-purpose yards, also a single-game record.

“He played extremely well, ran hard and broke a lot of tackles. There were lots of yards after contact,” Cleburne County head coach Michael Shortt said Tuesday. “He hasn’t brought it up this week. That’s how humble he’s been.”

Shortt noted a number of factors that contributed to the record-setting performances, individual and team. One was the return to health of fullback Brayden Walker. Walker ran 24 times for 161 yards.

“Any time we’ve had a good tailback, we’ve had a good fullback to go with him,” he said.

Another was the Tigers’ ability to pass effectively to a variety of receivers.

“You can’t put too many people in the box because we’ve got a lot of receivers,” Shortt said.

Finally, there was the rotation on the offensive line.

“You can’t say enough about the offensive line play. They’ve been getting better and better each week. They all play so they keep each other fresh,” Shortt said. “We put up a lot of yards in the second half.”

Thoughts now turn to Friday night and the Tigers’ Senior Night game against Oneonta on the final night of region play.

Now 6-0 in region games, Anniston has assured itself the Class 4A, Region 6 championship. Cleburne County, Oneonta and St. Clair County sit in a three-way tie for second at 4-2 in the region. With a win over Oneonta, the Tigers can finish no worse than third. Should Cleburne County beat Oneonta and Alexandria defeat St. Clair County, the Tigers would have a home game in the opening round of the 4A playoffs on Nov. 5.

Shortt described the youthful Redskins as “extremely solid at what they do.”

“They remind me a lot of us – run well, throw well. I just expect it to be a war,” Shortt said. “The one thing I’m pleased about is it’s Senior Night and we normally play well.”

The win over Springville could hardly have had a more inauspicious beginning. The opening kickoff went to Cleburne County and the Tigers were unable to field the pooch kick. Springville promptly marched about 35 yards to a 7-0 lead. From there, the combatants exchanged touchdowns for the first half.

Cleburne County settled down for an eight-play, 82-yard drive. A 14-yard gain on a pass from quarterback Matt Norton to Trace Bigger helped the drive along. Hayes scored on a 35-yard run and the first of seven consecutive extra points by Blake Price knotted the score a 7-all.

With Springville up 14-7, Hayes capped a three-play, 65-yard drive with a 50-yard run. Springville scored again before halftime but missed the extra point and led 20-14. Late in the second quarter, a 55-yard Norton to Hayes pass finished a 4-play, 75-yard drive and Cleburne County led 21-20 at halftime.

Senior running back Demarcus Tremble, who ran for 170 of his team’s 202 yards on the ground for the night, sparked Springville in the first half. Shortt said in the game film he and his staff saw of Springville, Tremble had not played because of a dislocated elbow. His return necessitated some modifications in Cleburne County’s defensive preparations.

After kicking off to Springville to start the second half, the Tigers put together a defensive stop. Beginning at the Cleburne County 33-yard line, it took only three plays to reach the Springville end zone. Hayes scored on a 55-yard run and Cleburne County led 28-20.

“Alright, that’s what we needed,” was Shortt’s reaction to the stop and score.

The Tigers got great field position following a short Springville punt and drove 39 yards on four plays. Walker ran for 21 yards then scored on a 2-yard run to give his team a little breathing room at 35-20.

Springville’s Jacob Gibson returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards, cutting Cleburne County’s lead to 35-26, but a 2-point conversion attempt failed.

The Tigers answered with a methodical, time-consuming, 70-yard drive. Included in the 10 plays were a 25-yard run by Tanner Howle, an 8-yard gain on a pass from Norton to Biggers and a 16-yard run by Walker. Walker scored on a 2-yard run to increase Cleburne County’s lead to 42-26.

Then it was E.J. Woody’s turn to score for Springville on a 90-yard kickoff return. The 2-point conversion attempt was successful and Cleburne County led 42-34.

Cleburne County again responded with a scoring drive. This one covered 65 yards in six plays. Hayes ran for 17 yards. Walker had a 20-yard gain. John Butler added a 24-yard run before Howle scored on a 10-yard carry.

Down 49-34, Springville began another drive but Benton Cooley’s second interception of the game gave Cleburne County the ball and the Tigers were able to run out the clock.

In addition to Hayes’ 281 yards rushing and Walker’s 161, Howle ran three times for 41 yards and Butler three times for 31 yards. Norton was 5-for-10 passing for 79 yards and one score, with an interception just before halftime.

Hayes’ only catch was the 55-yarder. Biggers’ two grabs covered 22 yards and Cooley had one catch for two yards.

On defense, Howle had a hand in seven total tackles, four solo stops and three assists. Walker made three solo tackles and had three assists. Blake Turner had four solos and one assist. Alan Santana made three solos and two assists.

Dakota Crumpton and Hunter Dryden each had two solo stops and two assists. Andrew Blanton made three solo tackles. Hunter Norton and Stephen Voss each recorded two solos and one assist.

The Tigers got three turnovers, Cooley’s two interceptions and a fumble recovery by Alan Taylor.
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