Seventh-ranked Hartselle defeats Russellville, gets leg up in region race
The battle of the Top-10 teams went to Hartselle Friday night as the visiting Tigers upset Russellville 24-14.
Hartselle used a potent rushing attack to chew up the clock, retaining possession for more than 37 minutes.
"Hats off to Hartselle," Russellville coach Doug Goodwin said. "They kept the ball away from us, I think we only ran 11 plays in the first half."
As the Tigers (4-0, 3-0) rolled up the time of possession in the first half, they also rolled up the score, jumping out to a 17-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
Russellville had a couple of opportunities to score, but and interception from the Hartselle 35-yard line and a fumble on the Hartselle 14 kept the Golden Tigers out of the end zone.
Russellville (3-1, 2-1) had four turnovers during the game.
"It is hard to beat a bad team when you turn the ball over four times," Goodwin said.
Late in the second quarter the Russellville defense made their first stop of the game, forcing Hartselle to punt from its own 15. Ryan Romans blocked the kick and Casey Herring picked up the ball and returned it for a score. Casey Bolton tacked on the extra point and the Golden Tigers trailed 17-7 at the half.
Russellville opened the second half by driving to Hartselle 29, but an interception by Joey Howe ended the drive. The defense stopped Hartselle on the ensuing drive, giving Howe a chance to redeem himself.
Howe drove Russellville 42 yards for the score, capped off with a 30-yard pass to Jake Ward to pull the Golden Tigers within three points.
"It picked us up, that is what we were needing," Goodwin said. "I thought the next time we got the ball we would score."
Momentum seemed to be on Russellville's side as the Golden Tigers stopped Hartselle on the next drive. Unfortunately, Russellville did not retain the momentum.
The Golden Tigers fumbled near midfield and Hartselle returned the ball for a touchdown with 10:20 remaining in the game.
"They brought both linebackers off that side," Goodwin said. "We pitched it off the wrong guy and they picked it up and ran it in for a score."
Russellville got the ball back one more time, but was forced to punt. Hartselle took possession with 8:14 remaining and never gave the ball back.
With the win, Hartselle takes control of the race for the Region 8 title. Russellville will travel to St. Paul's Friday for a game against the defending Class 5A state champions.
Goodwin said his team should reflect on the loss and use it to build team unity.
"What's important now is that they pull each other up, love on each other and support each other," Goodwin said. "You have a lot of friends when you are winning, but you don't have many when you lose."