– posted by Mike Cummings
With Cullman coming to Hartselle Friday night for both teams’ Class 5A, Region 6 finale, I figured it was a good time to catch back up with my old boss at The Cullman Times for a round of five questions.
Here’s the format: I asked Cullman Times sports editor Justin Graves five questions about the game and his answers are posted here.
He also asked me five questions, and my answers can be found by clicking this link.
Hope you enjoy a unique perspective ahead of this big rivalry game that has huge playoff ramifications this time around.
Question: Cullman has won three straight region titles and was ranked No. 1 during portions of the last two seasons, but they already have a couple of losses this year. Is this a different Cullman team than we’re used to seeing, or have they just run into some good opponents?
Answer: It’s a different team — a very young team. The teams that won three straight region titles were loaded with veterans. This team is not. With a freshman, defensive back Andrew Winfrey, starting on defense, along with several sophomores on both sides of the ball, this has been somewhat of a rebuilding year. But with that said, a few of these young players appear to be budding stars, and this team has been competitive in every game it’s played, despite its youthful inexperience.
Q: One of Cullman’s main strengths has been the offensive line, which is led by super recruit Spencer Region. How good is the unit, and will they be able to run on Hartselle?
A: The offensive line and running game have indeed been a strength. The proof is in the numbers. Running back Ben Moore has rushed for 1,380 yards and is averaging nine yards per carry. And he’s been able to pile up those numbers even though most opponents have put eight defenders in the tackle box. So while this isn’t the explosive Cullman offense from years past, running the football hasn’t been a problem, even against the stronger teams on the schedule.
Q: Cullman has been known for its pass-happy spread offense in recent years, but it lost a bunch of receivers to gradution last year. Can the Bearcats still throw the ball?
A: Not consistently. The receiver positions are the most inexperienced on the team, and that youthfulness has shown in the inconsistency. But a couple of the young kids have started to show promise in the second half of the season. Sophomores Troy Forrest and Wesley Hendrix are first and third respectively in receiving yards, and most of those yards came in recent weeks.
Q: The defense is giving up almost 18 points a game and lost all their linebackers to graduation. How will it hold up?
A: That number is a bit deceiving. In the two losses, against Walker and Fort Payne, most of the points allowed were the result of turnovers. Two of Walker’s three touchdowns were scored directly after turnovers, and the Vikings’ other touchdown was the result of a blocked punt. Cullman also turned the ball over six times at Fort Payne — quarterback Dylan Skipper threw five interceptions.
Q: Who wins this game?
A: Hartselle. The Tigers have the better team.