By PATRICK CASEY
A high-scoring contest saw the Freeport Bulldogs hold off the Cottondale Hornets 37-32 in a Thursday night high school football game in Cottondale.
Senior Nathan Hendrickson had a pair of long kickoff returns that set up Freeport touchdowns, including a return of the opening kickoff of the game to the Cottondale 14-yard line. The Bulldogs turned the outstanding field position into a touchdown as Paul Holmes caught a 16-yard pass from Cole Weeks on a fourth down play to give Freeport a 7-0 lead.
Eric Ogles picked off a Cottondale pass in Freeport territory and ran the ball back to the Cottondale 15-yard line to set up a fourth down plunge of three yards by Hendrickson. Joe Hahr caught a two-point conversion pass as the Bulldogs built a 15-0 lead with 1:07 left in the opening period.
Cottondale needed only one play on the next possession to cut the lead to 15-8 as senior wide receiver Kerry Bembow got behind the Bulldog secondary for a 74-yard touchdown reception. Dominique Webb ran in the two-point conversion for the Hornets.
Bembow wasn’t done as he caught his second touchdown pass with 5:44 left in the first half. Bembow grabbed a 23-yard toss and the Hornets converted a run for two points to take the only lead they would hold on the night, 16-15.
Another Hendrickson return set the Bulldogs up at the Hornet 20-yard line. Cody Binder caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from Weeks on the next play and the Bulldogs converted a two-point conversion by Binder for a 23-16 lead at halftime.
Both teams’ defenses settled down in the third quarter to keep either squad from mounting a drive on a warm, humid night in Cottondale that saw both teams struggle to keep from getting dehydrated.
The Bulldogs broke the scoring drought in the fourth quarter as Hendrickson caught a 38-yard pass from Weeks and chugged into the endzone for a 30-16 lead with 10:08 left in the game.
Dominique Webb rallied the Hornets with a 30-yard run for a score on a fourth down play in Freeport territory with 8:29 left in the game. A two-point conversion run cut the Bulldogs lead to 30-24.
The Freeport defense sacked Cottondale quarterback Jesse Freeman at his own 38-yard line on a fourth down play with 2:31 left in the game, then salted away the victory with a 44-yard touchdown reception by Nathan Hendrickson from Cole Weeks to up the advantage to 37-24 with 93 seconds left in the game.
Cottondale tacked on a touchdown with six seconds left in the game to cut the deficit to 37-32, but Freeport recovered the onside kick and took a knee to end the game and claim a win in their 2008 Kickoff Classic.
Cole Weeks tossed four touchdown passes as the junior played a stellar game behind an offensive line that gave him enough time to throw the football.
Freeport will host Walton on Friday in the regular season opener at 7 p.m. The game can be heard on TV-24 for those who cannot attend, with the replay of the contest airing at 10 a.m. on Saturday.