Abernathy powers Russellville

By Staff
John Pilati For the FCT
RUSSELLVILLE – The script for a shocking upset unfolded well for winless Austin through most of the first half Friday against Russellville. But a disastrous final two minutes of the second quarter gave the Golden Tigers a second wind, and a halftime lead, as Russellville went on to post a 42-28 win on homecoming night.
The win set up a showdown of the state's number one and two ranked Class 5A teams, Russellville and Athens, this Friday night at Golden Tiger Stadium. Both teams enter the game 5-0, after Athens clipped Jess Lanier 17-14.
With 4:28 remaining in the first half, Austin led 14-7. P.J. Martin recovered a Kirby Nelson fumble on the Golden Tiger 32 and the Black Bears had an opportunity to take a double-digit lead into halftime. Russellville's defense held, though, forcing a 49-yard field goal try that was no good.
The Golden Tigers took over on their 20 with 2:18 left. Russellville needed only five plays, including a 58-yard hookup from Cory Trapp to Michael Abernathy, and the quick drive ended with a five-yard Abernathy touchdown. The junior running back finished the night with 356 yards of offense, including five receptions for 185 yards and 22 carries for 171. For good measure, he added three touchdowns.
"Michael is a tremendous talent and he and (Nelson) are two great running backs we're fortunate to have," coach Perry Swindall said. "He did a great job tonight behind a solid job from the offensive line. Teams should know we'll continue to use them all season."
After Abernathy's touchdown, the game was tied 14-14, with 1:11 left. Austin quarterback Justin Jones fumbled the snap on first down, and Torey Baird fell on the loose football, setting up the Golden Tigers at the Black Bear 19.
After a sack on first down, Trapp connected with Caleb Mitchell for a 27-yard touchdown on the next play. The PAT failed, and the Golden Tigers held a 20-14 lead with :27 left.
Rather than taking a knee, Jones lined up in shotgun formation on the next play and another bad snap resulted in another turnover. Russellville took over on the Austin 24, but the half ended with an Abernathy reception at the 10-yard line, as the Golden Tigers were out of time outs.
Austin, which came into the game 0-4, took the second half kickoff and needed only six plays and 2:24 to regain the lead, 21-20, after a Cortez Shackleford touchdown from four yards out.
The Golden Tigers turned to Abernathy on their next possession, moving 80 yards on nine plays, seven of which were Abernathy carries. He totaled 61 yards on the drive, which ended with a Nelson scoring run from the eight-yard line. Nelson also ran in the two-point try, giving the Golden Tigers a 28-21 lead late in the third.
Austin's offense failed to gain a first down on the ensuing possession, and the Golden Tigers began a drive on their 45. 12 plays later, Trapp scored from the one to give Russellville some breathing room, at 35-21. The third quarter ended with the same score.
Abernathy and the Russellville offense weren't done, though. Russellville began a 98-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter, highlighted by a 73-yard touchdown pass from Trapp to Abernathy on a ball the receiver tipped to himself. Incredibly, the score came on third down and 41 from the Golden Tiger 27.
Austin added a late score, cutting the final margin to 14, at 42-28.
"Austin played hard and without a few mistakes, they had a chance to win the game," Swindall said. "I'm pleased with our record, but in a lot of ways we're not a very good football team yet," he added.