The Wadley Bulldogs came just about as close as a team can come to winning a football game with actually doing so after they found themselves on the wrong end of a hard-fought 14-13 decision at the hands of Lanett.
Trailing 14-7 in the fourth quarter Wadley put together a 14-play, 72-yard drive that consumed over eight minutes of game clock. The Bulldogs converted two short third downs and one critical fourth down to keep the drive and their hopes of victory alive.
Those hopes appeared to be realized when Jonathan Poole out-leaped former teammate Ka’Darius Zackery in the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown pass that cut the lead to 14-13. Wadley head coach Shenan Motley opted to go for two points on the PAT, but Caden Messer’s run out of the water bucket formation was stopped just shy of the goal line.
“We lined up in it earlier and shifted and kicked it,” Motley said. “We’re kind reading to see, counting numbers to see heads on heads, and we had them outnumbered. We just didn’t stick it in. We were close, but that’s what they say. Football is a game of inches. We were right there at it.”
He also defended the decision to go for the win rather than the tie in the late-game situation.
“I think we made the right call down here to go for two,” Motley said. “We had the opportunity, but just didn’t get it in right there. That’s football. That’s part of it. We’re trying to play to win, and I think these guys put themselves in a great position to do that.”
The final score was truly indicative of what a stalemate the game was between two evenly matched teams. Like the score the total yardage for the two teams was virtually even, with Lanett holding a slight 238-201 advantage in that category. That slim margin came because of a solid Wadley defensive effort against Lanett quarterback and Alabama commit Kristian Story.
Story had a 40-yard run early the game and added a 23-yard jaunt later, but outside of those two plays he was not a factor in the Lanett rushing attack. He was also inconsistent through the air, completing just 9-of-22 passes for 111 yards.
“We did kind of put in a little bit of a defensive package for him, and it somewhat worked,” Motley said. “But we were getting upfield, my two outside guys were getting upfield and he was running underneath them. We’ve got to do more breaking down and not keep running upfield and limit that space.”
That over-pursuit cost Wadley on Story’s first touchdown after he eluded the pass rush and hit a wide open Travaunta Abner in the end zone to stake Lanett to a 14-7 lead in the third quarter.
He also connected with Larontavious Hurston on a 25-yard touchdown in the second quarter that put Lanett up 7-0.
Wadley battled back to tie the game before halftime as Jacob Marable connected with Poole on a 27-yard pass play that gave Wadley a first-and-goal from the 3-yard line. Marable dove across the goal line from one yard out two plays later to knot the score at 7-7.
Caden Messer was the workhorse for Wadley’s offense as he grinded out an 18-carry, 81 yard performance.
Wadley falls to 1-1 overall and 0-1 in region play, but the Bulldogs will look to get their first region win at home this week against Loachapoka.
“Our kids can see, they’re starting to believe that, hey, we’re a pretty good football team,” Motley said. “On into this game there was kind of a teeter-totter there, do I quit? Do I go down? Or do I keep fighting and keep playing? And they stepped it up and they played. I’ve been saying this over and over, overcome it. And we’re starting to do that.”