By LIZI ARBOGAST | CAScoreboard Writer’s Club
The first night of the high school football season in Alabama is always one worth waiting for. The hype is built throughout the offseason; the hope is still there for every team; and the teams are ready to prove themselves.
And for a team like Benjamin Russell, Friday’s season opener was even more anticipated. The Wildcats are under the direction of new coach Aubrey Blackwell, who has generated an unbelievable amount of buzz in a town that’s hungry for football success.
Although the first game didn’t deliver the final result BRHS fans had hoped for, as the Wildcats were defeated 21-19 at the hands of Huffman, it definitely showed Benjamin Russell could be on the right track.
“The atmosphere was electric, the stands were packed,” Blackwell said. “Like I told the kids after the game, they have no reason to think that they let anybody down because they played their hearts out. They represented their community well. We didn’t come out on top, but at the end of the day, they did what we asked them to do and that’s play with heart and pride.”
But the victory seemed to just slip through their fingertips.
With just over a minute remaining, Benjamin Russell’s DeMarcus McNeal, who carried the ’Cats on the ground, muscled in from 3 yards out to pull the Wildcats within two points. It gave the BRHS faithful new hope, but despite the Vikings being hit with a penalty on the ensuing two-point conversion try and the Wildcats being only 1 yard from tying the game, they came up just short.
“We had a lot of opportunities to make some plays and we didn’t make our plays,” Blackwell said. “We gotta learn how to win again. The effort was there. We had opportunities to win that game on multiple occasions. We left points off the board, but this team loves each other and works hard. They’re going to find a way to get better and that’s what we need to us this game as — a way to get better.”
That electric atmosphere was certainly felt early on, and the Wildcats fueled the crowd as they were the first to make noise on the scoreboard. After working its way into the red zone on a long pass from Gabe Benton to Corri Milliner, Benjamin Russell capitalized with a 6-yard rushing score from McNeal. Benton also scored his first varsity touchdown when he threw a beauty into the end zone to La’Bronski McKinney for a 19-yard connection.
The shining point of the defense was sophomore Caiden Hyde, who snagged a pair of interceptions.
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