Russellville picks up first loss
By Matt Wilson
For the FCT
Russellville suffered their first loss of the season on the road to East Limestone who now sits atop the 5A Region 8 standings.
The 21-14 loss to the Indians came behind three turnovers and an uncharacteristic 15 penalties that resulted in the loss of 122 yards.
The Golden Tigers made things interesting in the fourth quarter, clawing their way to within a touchdown, but the East Limestone rushing attack and defense had already done enough damage.
Russellville found itself down 11-0 at the halftime break after an opening field goal by East Limestone and a 23-yard touchdown pass following an interception thrown by quarterback Payton Nichols just before the end of the second quarter.
“We didn’t read the people we were supposed to read and it cost us,” said Russellville head coach Mark Heaton.
“I think Payton had his mind made up a couple of times instead of reading his defender. Up front we had too many false start penalties, a couple of holds – things that you can’t be a good football team doing.”
The Russellville football team had been through a lot the week leading up to one of the toughest games of the season. Junior defensive back and one of the team’s captains, Austin Kitterman, was severely injured in an accident involving an all-terrain vehicle Sept. 28 and has been at Huntsville Hospital since being air-lifted there on the same night.
The Indians came out at the start of the second half and continued doing what they had done to frustrate Russellville during the first half: run the ball and play suffocating defense.
Russellville was only able to gain 67 yards in the first half due to turnovers and penalties that stalled drives, but also due to the way East Limestone’s defense was able to frustrate the Golden Tiger attack.
“We didn’t execute our offense. We didn’t come through when we needed to,” said Russellville quarterback Payton Nichols.
“We picked up the intensity in the second half and that’s why we were able to throw the ball.”
East Limestone came out with a game-defining drive to start the second half. Going 55 yards behind physical running, the Indians punched it in from the five-yard line to make it 18-0.
But Nichols and company came off the mat with intentions of showing why the No. 4 ranked Golden Tigers were having the kind of season that they were.
Back-to-back touchdowns from Russellville found them back in a ball game that they had been out of for so long. A six-yard pass to Reed Smith on a fourth down play got the Golden Tigers on the board. The next drive saw Nichols hook up with Colby Tompkins on an eight-yard toss and Russellville was back in business, 21-14, with just enough time for a dramatic finish.
The Indians were stalled by the Russellville defense and punted the ball back to the surging Golden Tigers with a little over a minute remaining. But with no timeouts left, Nichols was sacked inside the five-yard line and time expired.
Russellville finished the night with 158 passing yards and a paltry 21 yards on the ground. The lack of rushing yards can partially be attributed to the fact that the Golden Tigers were trailing for the majority of the game and needed quick responses.
Russellville will be back on the road this week taking on the West Point Warriors.