With four region games left this fall, the Beulah Bobcats are hoping to claw their way back into the playoff picture. In order to do that, Beulah has to handle a region opponent in the exact same position tonight.
Beulah (3-2, 1-2) hosts Bullock County (2-3, 1-2) in a matchup of Region 3-3A squads. The game will likely carry a lot of weight for the winner, as both teams are tied for fifth in a region in which the top four teams make the postseason.
The Bobcats are coming off a bye week, which was a welcomed sight for head coach Matt Johnson and Co. Johnson said his team has been playing without a full squad since the first half of the Ellwood Christian game on Aug. 30, a product of a rash of injuries. The week allowed those players to heal up, and it also helped the Bobcats shore up some of their big issues..
Prior to the bye week, Beulah lost to Southside Selma 36-34 in a game that featured a late comeback by the Bobcats that ultimately ended on an unsuccessful two-point conversion attempt. Johnson applauded his team for the late rally but chalked up the loss to penalties as well as the defense allowing explosive plays by the Panthers.
“They capitalized on big plays, and we did not. We had really big mistakes. We had an 80-yard screen pass go for a touchdown but get called back. We had a ball on the 1-yard line, and we snapped the ball over the quarterback's head,” Johnson said. “These kids never gave up. They fought. The resiliency in these kids is unbelievable.”
Johnson complimented a number of Beulah players for their contributions through five games. Quarterback Kaleb Abney has thrown for more than 200 yards the past two games, which Johnson said had never happened in his nine years on the Bobcats’ staff.
Abney’s play along with the efforts of running back Chris Person — who is averaging roughly seven yards per carry this season — as well as receivers Andruw Coxwell, Quay Johnson and Dashawn Jones has helped the Bobcats’ offense keep humming along. Those performances have been especially helpful given Beulah’s musical chairs at the offensive line due to injuries.
Johnson pointed to Coxwell, Johnson and Dylan Coleman in the secondary as well as linebacker TJ Washington as some of the Bobcats’ top defenders. Those four and the other seven on defense will be called on to make plays against a Bullock County squad that can put up points when need be.
Johnson said Bullock County always has athletes and added that this group led by head coach Willie Spears is very well-coached. The Hornets use multiple formations on offense, and their success in doing so demonstrates their practice habits and shows how dangerous they can be.
Johnson credited Kendeous Owens as being a talented running back and also commended the Hornets’ big defensive ends and linebackers.
In order to win tonight’s game, Johnson stressed gang-tackling Owens and limiting big plays in general from the Hornets. He called for his players to dictate the speed of the game by slowing it down in order to help a Bobcats’ squad that is healing up but still not totally healthy.
Johnson said the standard at Beulah now is to make the playoffs, which the Bobcats did last season for the first time since 2007. The Bobcats are still in the thick of the region race, and beating Bullock County would be big in keeping up the pace.
“It's going to be a four-quarter game for sure. We've just got to stay in there,” Johnson said. “I'm glad it's a home game and we don't have to travel. We've just got to take care of the football, do what we do and see what happens.”