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No. 9 Decatur upends No. 2 RHS, snaps 46-game region win streak

By Staff
Kim West
The third time wasn't the charm for second-ranked Russellville Friday night.
With the score tied at 17 at the end of regulation, the undefeated Golden Tigers faced their third overtime game this season, but this time their opponent was No. 9 Decatur, a team that had steamrolled its way through Class 5A, Region 8 this season.
The Red Raiders (7-1, 7-0) stunned Russellville in overtime with a 24-23 victory that snapped the Golden Tigers' mythical 46-game win streak in region play.
"I told them after the game that I'm extremely proud of them. I'm disappointed with the loss, but I was more proud of how hard they played tonight than in the win against Athens last week," Russellville coach Doug Goodwin said. "They fought their hearts out tonight, and it was one of those games where neither team deserved to lose. Sometimes the breaks go your way, and sometimes they don't."
For the second straight week, Russellville (6-1, 6-1) battled back from a 10-point deficit and led Decatur 17-10 with 6:22 remaining in the game.
But the Red Raiders used a methodical nine-play, 64-yard drive capped by a 29-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Ben Neill to David Martin with 3:21 to tie the game at 17.
Russellville received the ball first in overtime, and after a 4-yard gain by Caleb Mitchell, Kory Suggs ran left behind a surging Golden Tiges offensive line to score from six yards out.
Special teams play was pivotal during regulation, and overtime was no different. After senior kicker Josh Montgomery's PAT sailed wide left, Decatur took over at the 10-yard line. Neill gained three yards on a keeper and on the next play found Cory Dotson for a 7-yard touchdown. The Red Raiders' Michael Schuster hit the game-winning extra point to hand Russellville its first overtime loss this season after thrilling comeback wins over Deshler and J.O. Johnson.
Montgomery hit a 32-yard field goal in the third quarter to tie the game, but had a 42-yard attempt blocked due to a low snap and barely missed a 41-yard attempt with less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Schuster, whose strong leg prevented Russellville's talented kick returners from touching the ball on most of the kickoffs, hit a 16-yard field goal with 1.5 seconds left in the first half but also missed a 46-yard attempt at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
"(Josh) has had a great season, and he will make some more big plays for us before the season is over," Goodwin said. "You can't blame the loss on just one person because we had other chances to win. It's a team game – we lose together and we win together."
After a scoreless first quarter, Neill tossed a 29-yard touchdown to Justin Bishop with 10:16 left in the second quarter.
On the ensuing drive, Russellville marched 80 yards with a first-play boost from Mitchell, who took the handoff and juked his way down the right sideline for an 18-yard gain. Kory Suggs and Michael Abernathy combined for the remaining 62 yards, including a 30-yard gain by Suggs on fourth-and-inches at the Russellville 46. Suggs rushed in from the 1-yard line and Montgomery's PAT evened the score at 7 with 5:20 left until halftime.
Suggs scored again with a 2-yard touchdown with 6:44 left in the third quarter to put the Golden Tigers ahead 17-10.
The Russellville defense held Decatur to just 43 rushing yards on 31 attempts by Neill and Chris Coffey. Mitchell returned a third quarter interception 40 yards that led to Suggs' score, and Trent Brannon and Suggs each had sacks for the Golden Tigers.
Russellville will play at West Point next Friday and then close out its regular season at home against Muscle Shoals and 6A Florence.