The Tuscaloosa County High Wildcats (1-0) opened the 2022 season by renewing a bitter cross-town rivalry with the Central High School Falcons (0-1). The Wildcats extended its winning streak over the Falcons to now six-in-a-row with a 44-0 waxing to open the 2022 season.

Second-year head coach Adam Winegarden relied on a heavy dose of the running game to control the clock, field position and wear down the Falcons.

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Junior running back Kevin Riley ended up shouldering the load for the Wildcat offense in week 1. Riley took 18 carries for 242 yards and 2 touchdowns while also hauling in 2 receptions for 11 yards and another score.

"Kevin's a really good player. He dealt with some cramping and some different issues and had to come out of the game but he ran the ball really hard so did Kam Hall and CJ Hutchins when he got a chance. They all ran really well," said Winegarden.

Hall and Hutchins were effective in their opportunities to relieve Riley throughout the game. The senior, Hall, took 10 carries for 109 yards and a touchdown while the freshman, Hutchins, had 6 carries for 69 yards and a touchdown.

The Wildcat offense wasn't the only side of the football clicking, County High's defense stood up with four redzone stops to keep the Falcons off the scoreboard for the evening. Three interceptions and a stop-on-downs did the trick for County High to put up a first week shutout.

"We got nine underclassmen on defense. Defense is effort and fundamentals, so that's the thing that kept us alive. Dre Brown made a huge play, running the kid down on a screen and kept us alive to play some more downs. That's a big time play and a great example for our team," said Winegarden.

Junior Mcneal, Drew Keller and Eli Herndon came away with interceptions but it was senior Dre Brown who likely made the defensive play of the game. Central found Shunkeith Turner for a screen pass that appeared it may score, however Brown chased down Turner, stopping him on the 5-yard line and allowing the Wildcats to continue to fight.

"That's a program changing type play. Those kind of plays, you know things are changing for the better when players are doing things like that. It's the end of the game, the game's out of hand and he chases a kid down from 40 yards away and makes a play, much like the guy from the Seahawks did. Those are big time plays and are great examples for our team," said the County High coach.

Other notable performances for the Wildcats came from transfer quarterback Sawyer Deerman. The former ACA and Hillcrest Patriot went 9-of-16 passing for 87 yards and a touchdown and contributed 43 yards rushing.

Senior kicker Isaac Rodriguez converted on field goals of 30, 32 and 40 yards in the first half and was 4-of-4 on extra points for the evening.

The Falcons faced difficult circumstances entering the week as head coach Rodney Bivens lost his starting quarterback on Wednesday after an internal issue. Bivens, instead, started sophomore quarterback Christian Bishop who showed athleticism and heart in his first varsity start.

Bishop finished the game 9-of-23 passing for 177 yards and three interceptions but also contributed 55 yards rushing.

"We lost our starting quarterback at 4o'clock on Wednesday, due to unforeseen situations so we put in our game plan in a day and a half. The kids did everything they could. This kid right here hadn't gotten any reps playing quarterback since the spring," said Bivens.

"I thought Christian did an excellent job stepping in, filling into that role and doing everything that was asked of him. I thought he did a great job."

Bishop was helped by running backs Marquis Thomas and Shunkeith Turner along with receiver Dominc Myles. Thomas took 7 carries for 32 yards and hauled in 1 catch for 15 yards, Turner pounded 9 carries for 7 yards and Myles hauled in 5 receptions for 62 yards.

County High will hit the road next week to take on Bessemer City while Central returns home and will take on Woodlawn.

Tuscaloosa County High vs Central Week 1 2022

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