From staff reports
North Jefferson News
Coach Keith Register knew that his Fultondale Wildcats — just off an upset to Woodland and the loss of their No. 1 ranking in Class 2A — would face a stiff test against eighth-ranked Walter Wellborn.
But few would have suspected that his highly-touted, normally sure-handed quarterback would fumble the ball twice, both times leading to pivotal scores for the Panthers en route to a a 44-31 loss for the Cats.
ArDarius Stewart had a big night in both good and bad ways for Fultondale. He ran for 156 yards and scored three touchdowns, but his first fumble set up a 26-yard field goal by Dakota Dravitt that put Wellborn ahead 16-14 at intermission.
The second fumble was even more costly, as it turned the game around for good. After recovering their own onside kick, Stewart was facing first down and 25, and was scrambling to find an open receiver. But the ball came loose, and the Panthers’ Landon Machristie caught it on the run and dashed 35 yards the other way for the score. That gave the Panthers a 44-24 lead.
“I think there were some key plays here and there that if they went our way it might have been different,” Register said.
The Wildcats had done well on the ground in the first half with 172 yards, but struggled greatly after the break, and didn’t find their way again offensively until Stewart scored twice in the fourth quarter. In the interim, Wellborn picked up two scores to put some distance between themselves and Fultondale.
Panther running back kevin Mixon nearly matched Stewart, running for 168 yards and three touchdowns. Chantz Goodman added 109 yards on 24 carries for Wellborn (4-0, 3-0 region).
Stewart was 8-for-13 in passing for 57 yards, with Khyree Robinson catching six passes for the Wildcats (2-2, 1-2 region).
Fultondale travels to American Christian in Tuscaloosa next week.
Brandon Miller of the Anniston Star contributed to this report.