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Golden Tigers look to rebound from 0-2 start

Russellville dug itself an early hole Friday night against Muscle Shoals and could never climb out.

Zack Garrison’s attempted screen pass was intercepted and returned for a 14-yard touchdown on the Golden Tigers’ first offensive play and the Trojans never looked back on their way to a 41-0 win.

It marked the third straight shutout win over Russellville.

Following the Trojans’ first touchdown Friday night, which was only 15 seconds into the game, the ball was knocked away from Russellville’s Austin Kitterman on the ensuing kickoff.

Muscle Shoals recovered and would score six plays later to build the lead to 14-0 with 8:04 to play in the first quarter.

The Trojans tacked on a safety when the ball was snapped over Garrison’s head and through the back of the end zone in the second quarter right after the Russellville defense forced a turnover at the goal line. Muscle Shoals extended the half time lead to 19-0 with a 23-yard field goal as the half expired.

The Russellville offense struggled throughout the night, finishing the game with only 31 total yards on 31 offensive plays. The Golden Tigers netted one rushing yard on 23 carries and had 30 yards on four of eight passing for the game, with only three first downs.

Muscle Shoals racked up 417 total yards and amassed 57 total plays. The Trojans had 150 yards on 14 penalties.

The Trojans controlled the game late, adding three-second half scores.

“Our kids played extremely hard and physical and that’s something positive we can take away from it,” Russellville head coach Michael Jackson said.

“After the first four minutes until halftime, we gave up a safety and a field goal, so we hung in there.”

Russellville started eight players who were making their second career start Friday night and three more who were making their first ever start.

“They are all going to get better and better,” Jackson said. “That’s the thing I took away from it – there are things that can be fixed so we will work on those. But the toughness, effort, those kinds of things, they are there. We jut have to grow and build on the positives.”

The Golden Tigers will try to re-group Friday night against an East Limestone team that also brings a 0-2 record into the game.

East Limestone runs a variation of the Wing-T, similar to what Russellville has seen in the first two weeks.

“They are throwing the ball a little more this year,” Jackson said. “They have a big, physical wide receiver that’s a hard matchup, so we are concerned about that.”

Jackson said East Limestone does not pose the same threat speed-wise that Deshler and Muscle Shoals had, but they are just powerful running “downhill.”

And going on the road poses its own challenges. The Indians have played better at home than on the road in recent years, including a win over the Golden Tigers there two years ago.

“They always play a lot better at home,” Jackson said. “Our guys know that and they know how important this game is to us as far as the region goes. If we had beat Muscle Shoals and lost this one, we would still be in the same boat. So, we just have to approach each region game the same.”

Jackson said he believes his team has the leadership and work ethic to overcome the 0-2 start to the season.

“We know we are going to get the right personnel grouping on the field,” he said.

“Right now, we have to learn from our mistakes and grow as we get experience. We still think we can have a dominant defense. We just have to keep fighting and I know these guys will do that.”