Cullman Bearcats vs. Jasper Vikings:
Thursday 7:00 p.m.
Oliver Woodard Stadium - Cullman
SERIES: 1st meeting
COACHES: Matt Plunkett - Cullman (1st year), Bryan Moore - Jasper (1st year)
2017: Cullman 7-4, Jasper 3-7
FLASH NOTES: Jasper is known to many Cullman fans as Walker High School. The Vikings changed their name a couple of seasons ago.
This has been a very good rivalry through the years with Walker leading it by 34 wins to 33 and two ties.
It was an intense one the last time the Bearcats and Vikings tangled. In the 2013 opener, Cullman came from behind in Jasper for a 13-10 victory.
The game ended with coaches from both sides getting into a fighting mood, with both schools fined by the AHSAA, coaches suspended for the season and both teams placed on probation for a year.
Both schools have worked on burying the hatchet as the two teams have new leaders. Plunkett for Cullman and Moore for Jasper are aware of hearing details about the rivalry. With both 40 miles apart, the administration from Cullman and Japser put together an effort to have the rivalry to resume the next two years.
Jasper has dropped down a class this year to 5A with Cullman still competing in 6A play.
Plunkett is aware of the Vikings as he coached against them in five seasons while in command of the Gardendale Rockets. Gardendale and Jasper were in the same region.
Cullman is looking to maintain winning football the Bearcats enjoyed in 17 seasons under Mark Britton. Britton guided Cullman to a 137-64 record from 2001 to 2017 as the 'Cats were in the playoffs 15 seasons and never won fewer than five games in a single year.
Moore is in the area for the first time, after coaching at Eufaula in the southern part of the state the last three years.
Cullman has a 4-game winning streak at Woodard Stadium entering the 2018 season.
The 'Cats are looking to take victory on opening night for the first time since 2015 when they rolled over Arab at Woodard Stadium 56-7.
UP NEXT FOR THE BEARCATS: Vs.. Mortimer Jordan August 31 7:00 p.m.
Cullman High School carries a trademark of very successful soccer for the last two decades.
An idea by current coach Casey Harbin enabled the program to relive moments of the past on Friday evening at the Cullman High Soccer Complex.
A soccer reunion consisted of matchups between the 2002 AHSAA champions, the 2016 AHSAA champions and players who were part of Final Four squads.
Each contest was a 35-minute match with a running clock. The games were very competitive as the former Bearcats put their skills from the past back to work for the present and delighted a good crowd that filled the bleachers nearly full.
Alumni soccer results:
Game # 1: Final 4 over 2002 champions 3-1
Game # 2: 2016 champions over Final 4 2-1
Game # 3: 2002 champions, 2016 champions 0-0
2002 champions roster: Jonathan Hollis, Jeremy Stidham, Nicholas Chaney, Russell Ellison, Ben Miller, Wes Bonds, Jason Burke, Adam Munger, Taylor Eidson, Joseph Fisher, Chase Hollingworth, Joseph McPhillips, Michael Pugh, Daniel Allison, Kevin Arbent, James Nyquist.
Final Four: Christina Chambers, Casey Harbin, Mack McDaniel, Ennesto Romero, Jacob Brown, Cesar Lopez, Andrew Arbet, Will Drake, Cooper Nyquist, Juan Sanchez, Johnathan Fernandez, Josh Bell, Braxton Johnson, Jacob Richter, Eric Rodriguez, Aaron Andrews, Jesse Burroughs, Nick Harbin.
2016 champions: Chris Grey, Cody McCluskey, Jonathan Tizapa, Chayse Freeman, Oscar Cabanas, Ben Huser, Seth Andrews, Garrett Manley, Michael Peralta, KJ Potter, Pecho Rameriez, Giovanni Rodriguez, Leah Shaddix, Brooks Yearwood, Conner Moore, Zane Manley, Miguel Tizapa, Issac Rodriguez.
FLASH NOTES: The 2002 champions scored the first goal on the Final Four less than 3:00 into the match. Then the Final Four had three goals in a span of 11:00, breaking a 1-1 tie with 26:00 remaining.
Great play on goal by the Final Four preserved the victory in opening this alumni series.
In the second match, the 2016 champs went ahead 1-0 with less than 2:00 played and held that led until they scored with 2:50 to go to push the margin to 2-0.
Thirty-eight seconds later, the Final Four got a goal and put the pressure on. The 16 champions were able to fight off the Final Four for the rest of the way and come out with a well earned 2-1 triumph.
The nightcap was a struggle with the two champions trying to get on the scoreboard.
A goal by the 02 champions with 2:15 left was wiped out on an offsides call against them.
Neither side had a good chance to score following that, with the contest closing out in a scoreless battle.
Harbin, the creator of this classic, displayed his skills on the field for the Final Four team. He was joined out there by Jacob Brown, the current Cullman girls coach. Harbin is a 2007 grad of Cullman High, with Brown graduating in 2008.
Another former Bearcat, now in the sports media, returned to the area and played very competitive for the Final Four. Christina Chambers, sports reporter for WBRC-TV in Birmingham, graduated from CHS in 2006. Her Lady Bearcats were in the Elite 8 of the AHSAA 6A playoffs her junior and senior season.
Former coach Jon Drake was on hand as well. Drake is now the director of the CHS Broadcast Network, with the games being shown live on the NFHS Network.
Donations were accepted at the gate to support the Cullman soccer program.
This was an evening in which memories were brought back to life and a lot of fun on hand in this inaugural event.
Sportspage photos by Johnny Thornton
Coach: Matt Plunkett
Record at Cullman: 0-0 (1st year)
2017 Record: 7-4 (4-2 in 6A, R 7)
2018: Cullman is in 6A, R 7 with Decatur, Columbia, Athens, Hartselle, Muscle Shoals.
Key returning personnel: RB Ezra Burks, RB Jayden Sullins, WR Peyton Culvard, C Carter Borden, G Jordan Ray, DB Seth Gable.
2018 schedule: Aug. 23 - Jasper, Aug. 31 - Mortimer Jordan, Sept. 7 - @ Decatur, Sept. 14 - Columbia, Sept. 21 - @ Albertville, Sept. 28 - @ Hueytown, Oct. 5 - Athens, Oct. 12 - Muscle Shoals, Oct. 19 - @ Hartselle, Oct. 26 - @ Fort Payne.
Outlook: Cullman has a new leader on the sidelines that has established good credibility in 5 seasons coaching at Gardendale High School.
The Bearcats have experience in the running game, the line of scrimmage heading into Plunkett's first season.
Cullman will be young at quarterback, bringing in new receivers. The Bearcats do present good personnel at linebacker and in the secondary.
Having a chance to bring in his system during the spring is a benefit as the fall season is upon us.
Resuming the rivalry with Jasper (formerly Walker) will give the Bearcats an indicator with the game to be intense on opening night.
Back in a region with Decatur, Athens, Hartselle and Muscle Shoals, Cullman knows each game will be a challenge from the kickoff until the final play.
Non region foes like Albertville and Fort Payne, who were regional teams the last two years, is good in continuing on the Cullman schedule. Mortimer Jordan and Hueytown will be challenging schools that represent Jefferson County.
The Bearcats will play 10 consecutive weeks with the finale on the last Friday in October at Fort Payne. But Plunkett and the Bearcats hope the season is not done at that time.
Cullman's regional opener in Decatur will be full of energy as the Red Raiders will tangle with the 'Cats on a new artificial surface at legenday Ogle Stadium.
Trying to defeat Hartselle for the first time since 2013 is huge for Cullman. The 'Cats lost a close one to the Tigers in 2017, on a 99-yard kickoff return in the final moments.
With young players in certain positions, Plunkett is hoping for a good start as Cullman plays at Oliver Woodard Stadium three of the first four weeks. That will allow the team to develop a flow, with the final weeks of September being non-regional road games at Albertville and Hueytown.
Cullman conducted a controlled scrimmage Friday evening at Woodard Stadium as they continue to move forward toward opening night.
Sportspage photos by Johnny Thornton