By Justin Lee
LANETT — With Lanett facing third-and-goal from the 6-yard line, everyone in the stadium knew who was getting the football.
Marlon Bridges had already rushed for over 300 yards and five touchdowns. His last run brought the Panthers down to the 1-yard line, his outstretched arms bringing the ball down just short of the goal line.
He was battling cramps, he had already logged 27 carries, and a false start had just set the second-ranked Panthers back with 14 seconds to go.
Still, the Lanett coaching staff knew where to turn. Bridges had pounded the ball inside all night, finding creases, knifing right into the defense.
The Fultondale defense loaded the inside. Lanett came out in a bunch set. All eyes in Panther Stadium were between the tackles.
Lanett tossed it to Bridges outside to the right. He walked in.
Touchdown Bridges. Touchdown Panthers.
“I was just thinking, ‘Score,’” Bridges said. “‘Put my team on my back, so we can go to the third round.’”
Bridges’ sixth touchdown of the night lifted second-ranked Lanett to a 46-41, come-from-behind victory over No. 8 Fultondale, and advanced the Panthers to the third round of the playoffs.
“We saw what they gave us the play before,” Lanett head coach Cliff Story said. “I told Coach (Chip) Seagle, I said, ‘We’ve got the outside, Coach. Let’s run the toss.’ He looked at it, and he called toss, and (Bridges) walked into the end zone. Everybody blocked down, and there’s wasn’t anybody over there.”
Bridges finished with 309 rushing yards and six scores on 28 carries, sealing the win for Lanett (11-0) with his late score after a back-and-forth slugfest between two top-10 teams.
Fultondale took a 41-38 lead in the fourth quarter, scoring with under nine minutes to play. It was on a 1-yard run by quarterback Kris Lewis, who gained just 14 yards on the ground for the night but scored four touchdowns.
The Wildcats held Lanett to a turnover on downs on the ensuing drive, but the Lanett defense held Fultondale to a three-and-out, giving the ball back to its offense with2:30 to play.
That’s when Lanett went on its seven-play scoring drive, with Bridges taking carries on six plays — leaving the game for one snap with a cramp.
“Fultondale, they had a great game plan,” Story said. “They made plays when they needed to make them. It just came down to who had the ball right there at the end. Our offensive line did a good job of driving the ball down the field, opening the holes for (Bridges). He was cramping there, and I got a little concerned, but once we got him out there, I told Seagle, ‘Feed him.’
“That’s what we did.”
Brandon Lewis ran for 137 yards on 22 carries, including a 4-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter. Kris Lewis was 6-for-11 in passing for 156 yards, with Antwan Wheeler catching three passes for 104 yards and a touchdown late in the third period.
The Wildcats finish the season with a 10-2 record under first-year coach Richie Busby.
Jeff Robinson contributed to this report.
Fultondale: Kristopher Lewis 2 run (Enrique Aguilar kick), 8:34
Lanett: Marlon Bridges 61 run (conversion failed), 7:47
Lanett: Bridges 29 run (Bridges run), 3:23
Fultondale: Brandon Lewis 4 run (Aguilar kick), 2:24
Lanett: Bridges 5 run (Mandell Ray run), 3:22
Fultondale: Kristopher Lewis 5 run (conversion failed), 0:26
Fultondale: Brandon Lewis 4 run (Aguilar kick), 5:30
Lanett: Bridges 1 run (Bridges run), 4:13
Fultondale: Kavin Wheeler 57 pass from Kristopher Lewis (Aguilar kick), 2:38
Lanett: Bridges 1 run (Bridges run), 11:06
Fultondale: Kristopher Lewis 1 run (Aguilar kick), 8:32
Lanett: Bridges 6 run (Jamarious Barrow pass from Ray), 0:14