By Morgan Bryce
Opportunistic, stout defensive play and another dominant rushing performance propelled Beulah to a 27-7 homecoming victory over Prattville Christian Academy Friday night.
With the win, the Bobcats move to 4-0 overall, 1-0 in region play, the program’s best start to a season since 1995.
“It’s not (surprising) for the guys, because they’ve put the work in. They’ve been needing this around here a long time, and when I came in, I said, ‘hey, we’ve got the talent to be competitive,’” said Beulah Coach Cody Flournoy in a postgame interview. “I didn’t think we’d be at 4-0, but we’re definitely competitive and winning some games here.”
Even without star running back Caden Dowdell, who was sidelined with an ankle injury, the Bobcats managed to find success on the ground through its stellar offensive line play, chalking up 324 total rushing yards and four touchdowns.
Quin Page gashed the Panther defense over and over on the game’s opening drive, a frantically paced and beautifully orchestrated possession that culminated in a nine-yard scoring run from backup Chris Person fewer than three minutes into the first quarter.
A three-and-out was the result of PCA’s opening drive, but a precise punt by punter/running back Preston Cox pinned Beulah at their own one-yard line. After a short
Page run to give the Bobcats breathing room, quarterback Lonzie Portis eluded the Panther defense for a 95-yard TD run, which was nullified because of a block-in-the-back penalty.
A short punt provided PCA with prime field position, and in a handful of plays, running back Sterling Berry bulled his way to paydirt from 18 yards out.
PCA threatened with two more promising drives, but the Beulah defense snubbed them with a Da’Shawn Jones interception and Isaiah Glidewell fumble recovery. With less than a minute remaining in the first half, the Bobcats drove the ball into the Panther redzone, but turned the ball over on downs following an athletic pass break-up by defensive back Jonathan Johnson.
Tied 7-7 at halftime, both teams stepped aside to let the homecoming festivities begin.
A Jackson Blanton fumble recovery early in the second half provided the Beulah offense a spark, as the Bobcats would extend their lead to seven on another 21-yard scoring jaunt from Person.
PCA’s coaching staff relied on Cox’s powerful running to move the ball on the Beulah defense throughout the game, testing but not successfully breaking their bend-but-not-break approach.
Both teams exchanged punts until the halfway point of the fourth quarter. With fewer than seven minutes remaining and Beulah clinging to a 14-7 lead, the Bobcat defense was searching for answers.
A well-balanced blend of runs from Cox and accurate, conservative throws from quarterback Ethan Jones placed the Panthers within striking distance of tying Beulah. However, an inerrant throw from Jones was intercepted by Page, a play that later sealed the Panther’s chances of a victory.
On the ensuing play, Portis sprinted left and outran two defenders on a 92-yard scamper for a score.
“I snapped the ball, faked the (handoff) to the running back and I just hit the hole. The hole was bigger than usual, so I hit it really hard,” Portis said. “Towards the 50 (yard line), I started cramping, but I just kept running and finally got to the endzone.”
With a comfortable 20-7 lead for Beulah, the pressure proved to be too much for PCA, turning the ball over on downs with 4:25 left in the fourth quarter.
Beulah salted away their homecoming victory on Person’s third and final TD of the night, a charging nine-yard run through the heart of the Panther defense, securing the 27-7 victory.
“It’s crazy. I’ve never been 4-0, personally,” Portis said. “To be 4-0, for this community, for this team, it’s just a great feeling.”
Portis completed 4-of-10 passes for 28 yards and led all rushers with 151 yards on 12 carries and a TD. Page, Person and Tykerious Williams combined for 24 rushing attempts, garnering 167 yards.
Defensively, Glidewell led the way with 10 tackles, including two for a loss. Middle linebacker Justin Hancock and safety Dylan Coleman notched nine and seven tackles, respectively.
Glidewell finished with a 36-yard average on three punts and Austin Billingsley was perfect on his three extra-point attempts.
The Bobcats will take their spotless record to Southside-Selma this Friday, a region rival who left a bitter taste in the mouth of Bobcats players following a 24-18 loss in double overtime last season.
“I’m ready for this next game and I believe that we’re going to take care of business. Southside (Selma) has something coming for them,” Page said.
Fresh off a 34-6 road loss to Pike Road High School last Friday, the Panthers are 0-4 overall and 0-1 in region play.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Memorial Stadium in Selma. The school is located at 7975 U.S. Highway 80. The Bobcats’ next home game will be Oct. 12 v. St. James.
Turn to B8 for photos of Friday’s contest.