By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News
LANETT — It was quarterback ArDarius Stewart who scored all of Fultondale’s points, but it was Julian Hardy who ended up with the game-winning play.
Hardy blocked the extra-point kick of Marlon Bridges Jr., and that single point was the difference as the Wildcats defeated No. 7 Lanett 14-13 in the first round of the AHSAA Class 2A playoffs.
Stewart scored on a 28-yard run midway through the first quarter, finishing off the Wildcats’ first drive of the night.
But the Panthers came back to tie the game on a 33-yard touchdown pass from Bridges to Justice Jackson. Bridges nailed the point-after with 1:47 left in the first period.
Immediately after the ensuing kickoff, Stewart threw his only interception of the night, and the Panthers converted on the next play with a 34-yard touchdown run by Jamarious Barrow. But on the extra point attempt, Hardy broke through and blocked the kick.
Stewart scored again with 92 seconds left before halftime from four yards out, in what proved to be the final scoring play of the game. Enrique Aguilar was true on both of his extra-point kicks.
The second half was tough going for both teams, with turnovers galore — two lost fumbles by each team.
Fultondale dominated the statistics, with Stewart providing most of the offense himself. The Alabama commitment ran for 178 yards on 28 plays, only seven yards fewer than Lanett’s total offensive output for the game. Overall, the Wildcats ran for 274 yards on 41 rush attempts, while holding the Panthers to just 82 yards rushing. Fultondale also sacked Bridges three times for 31 yards lost, with two sacks coming at the hands of John Chaney.
Jared Stewart caught three passes from his older brother for 57 yards.
Hardy finished the night with four solo tackles and five assists to lead the Wildcat defense.
Fultondale moves on to the second round of the playoffs next Friday night, where they will host Fyffe.