E.A. Sports Today

Saks stacks up

Wildcats use blazing speed on both sides of the ball to take down Russellville in challenging spring game

Kaynan Hayes (9) sizes up Russellville’s Robert Hamilton as teammates close in from behind. The Wildcats held their visitors to 9 yards net rushing. On the cover, Dee Bell (2) breaks out for a 75-yard touchdown run early in the game. (Photos by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

By Brant Locklier
For East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — Flashback to 1968 in the early days of playoff football in Alabama and you will find the first meeting between the Russellville Golden Tigers and the Saks Wildcats. It was in the state championship game and Russellville came away with a 51-13 victory.

Friday night’s jamboree game was far removed of that one in so many ways, but the Wildcats let everybody know they plan on having a special team this fall as they used blinding speed on both sides of the ball to knock off Russellville 23-20.

The Golden Tigers scored a couple of late touchdowns in the second and third quarters to make the score look much closer than it was.

With only seven county schools participating in the Calhoun County Spring Jam, the Golden Tigers made the three-hour trip to fill the void. They were picked by Saks to play and were no easy target — they have gone 27-9 the last three years.

Saks quarterback Dee Bell stunned the visitors early when, on the Wildcats first possession, he faked a run right, turned left and sprinted 75 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

After a huge sack on fourth down to stop Russellville, it appeared the Wildcats were going to get another score, but an ill-advised pass by Bell was picked off by Logan Jones and returned 75 yards to the Saks 2. Xavier Boyd stuck it in two players later from 5 yards out and the game was tied 7-7.

But Saks came back quickly with a 75-yard drive on the ground. Rodolfo Torres and Jonathon Cobb chewed up large chunks of yardage and Bell scampered in from 8 yards out to give Saks a 13-7 lead. The extra point was missed.

The Wildcats roared back down the field after another stop early in the second quarter but a holding penalty took a touchdown off the board. Cornero salvaged the drive with a 36-yard field goal to extend the lead to 16-7.

The Wildcats continued their shocking dominance over their 5A opponent with another 75-yard drive capped by a 5-yard touchdown gallop by Will Fletcher.

The Golden Tigers finally got something going as quarterback Devin Buckhalter threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Bernard Finzey with 40 seconds left in the half to chop the lead to 23-14.

Saks had another chance to tack on some more points, but Bell fumbled the ball back to Russellville at the 15.

Russellville took it 85 yards and scored on a Hail Mary pass from 24 yards out with 4 seconds left in the third quarter.

“We had chances to really stretch our lead in the game, but killed ourselves with mistakes,” Saks coach Jonathan Miller said. “The interception really was big as we should not have thrown that pass.

“I was proud of our kids, though. We played hard and if we keep playing hard we will win a lot of games this fall. Our defensive line and offensive line went through growing pains last year, but they are big and strong and they did very well tonight, We are expecting big things out of them this fall.”

Jonathon Cobb led the Wildcats in rushing with 130 yards on 15 carries. Bell carried it five times for 113 yards. In three quarters, Saks rushed for 308 yards and held Russellville to 9 yards rushing on 27 carries.

The Golden Tigers did gain 192 yards on 25 pass plays as they threw screen pass after screen pass trying to slow down the Wildcat rush.

Saks 23, Russellville 20
Russellville 7 7 6 — 20
Saks 13 10 0 — 23

S – Dee Bell 75 run (Anthony Cornero kick)
R – Xavier Boyd 1 run (Brooks Scott kick)
S – Dee Bell 8 run (kick failed)
S – Anthony Cornero 36 FG
S – Will Fletcher 5 run (Anthony Cornero kick)
R – Bernard Finzey 32 pass from Devin Buckhalter (Brooks Scott kick)
R – Devin Buckhalter 24 pass from Kevin Barnwell (pass failed)

Jonathon Cobb (3) led Saks in rushing with 130 yards on 15 carries Friday night. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

To see more B.J. Franklin photos from this game, go to www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com and locate the football file

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