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Golden Tigers turn attention to Muscle Shoals

Just minutes after dropping the season opener at Deshler Friday night, Russellville coach Michael Jackson challenged his team to go back to work and improve on the areas where they struggled.

Deshler knocked off the Golden Tigers 20-17 Friday night in front of a large crowd at Howard Chappell Stadium in Tuscumbia.

“There were a lot of missed opportunities,” Jackson said.

“Deshler is a good team but we need to get to work on correcting our mistakes.”

The two teams put together a scoring drive in the first half. Trey Williams capped a 62-yard touchdown drive with a short run with just over four minutes to play in the first half.

But the Golden Tigers let an opportunity to build a lead slip away just a few minutes later.

After taking a 9-7 lead after a snap sailed over the Deshler punter’s head and through the back of the end zone, Russellville took possession at the Deshler 42 yard line. Looking like it had the chance to build on that two-point lead, the offense sputtered and ended up turning the ball back over to the Tigers.

Russellville led 9-7 at the half.

Deshler would eventually build a 20-9 lead late following two field goals and a 12-yard touchdown run with about eight minutes to play.

The Golden Tigers would score on a seven-yard touchdown pass from Zack Garrison to Williams with just under two minutes to play.

Russellville added a two-point conversion to cut the Deshler lead to 20-17.

Just when it looked like Russellville had one more shot, another break failed to go the Golden Tigers way.

Russellville recovered an onsides kick, but the officials ruled that the ball failed to go 10 yards before it was touched. Deshler ran out the clock, dropping Russellville to 0-1 on the season.

Jackson said he saw a lot of positives after reviewing the game film Sunday afternoon.

“I think a lot of guys had their eyes opened after they saw how many opportunities we had in that game,” Jackson said.

He said many of the “fixable” things from the Deshler game just simply comes down to making plays.

“We have just got to make plays,” Jackson said.

“We put ourselves in position to make plays and if we had made those, that’s a different ball game. We played a lot of guys that hadn’t played before and we think we will keep getting better and better. We just need to keep working hard and make the plays when we have an opportunity.”

The Golden Tigers will have to rebound quickly as they host 5A Region 8 rival Muscle Shoals Friday night.

The Trojans have seen a resurgence over the past three seasons. Last year, they advanced to the 5A semi-finals before falling to McAdory, the same team that knocked Russellville out of the playoffs in the second round.

Jackson said this year’s Trojans squad is similar to that team, relying on a stingy defense and ball control offense.

“Muscle Shoals has a good football team,” Jackson said.

“They have a huge senior class, with something like 30 seniors, so they have guys who have been in the program and have been successful.”

Muscle Shoals runs the same offense that it has in recent years, but this year they are led by quarterback Landon Smothers, a tenth grader who started for Russellville last season. His father, Shane Smothers, is the offensive coordinator.

“They are big upfront, averaging about six-feet four and 285 pounds across the offensive line,” Jackson said.

“They have some speedy backs and can cause some problems.”

Still, it’s the Trojan defense that looks to be the backbone of the team. Muscle Shoals pitched a shutout in its pre-season jamboree and again in its week one 56-0 route of Rogers.

“I think their defense is the strength of the team again this year,” Jackson said.

“They have some size across the front and their linebackers are very good.”

Jackson said he hopes to see a big crowd Friday night when the rivalry renews.

“This is an exciting week for our team and I expect that we will have one of the biggest crowds we have had in some time, so we would love everyone to come out and support our guys,” Jackson said.

“Every game in our region is a big game and this one is no different.”

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