VINCENT — After some less-than-stellar efforts over the past few weeks and a tumble from the top of the state Class 2A rankings to an also-ran, Fultondale needed to make a statement against a worthy opponent.
They did just that Thursday night, and ArDarius Stewart did most of the talking.
The senior quarterback/safety scored five rushing touchdowns, threw a pass to Kris Lewis for another, and intercepted a pass in the end zone to stop a Vincent drive cold, as the Wildcats defeated the Yellow Jackets 59-36.
The game was moved to Thursday night so it could be televised on WABM-68’s “Thursday Night Lights” series, and the station had been hoping to showcase Fultondale’s prized Alabama commitment.
Stewart did not disappoint.
He cut through the Vincent defense with relative ease, scoring on runs of 33, 5, 1, 42 and 3 yards. His touchdown toss looked at first to be a sure interception, as Stewart had lofted the ball a bit too much — but Lewis made a spectacular leap in coverage, came down with the ball and trotted about 20 more yards for the score in the first quarter.
Stewart totaled 202 yards on the ground on 24 carries.
“That young ‘un right here is one of the toughest I’ve ever seen,” Fultondale coach Keith Register said of Stewart. “People don’t know it, but he played last week [against Pleasant Valley] with a rib knocked out of place. It was painful. But he came out here and did that this week.”
The game had all the earmarks of a track meet, as the two teams combined for 61 points in the first half alone. After Stewart finished off the Wildcats’ opening drive by running untouched to the goal line, Vincent countered with running back Rodney Groce, their workhorse for the night, who scored on a 2-yard run up the middle. The two-point conversion on the fake kick lineup gave the home team an 8-7 lead, its only advantage of the night.