Russellville tops West Point
By Matt Wilson
For the FCT
The Golden Tigers rebounded from a road loss last week against East Limestone by grinding out a tough 26-22 win on the road Friday night against West Point.
The win was sloppy and came after the game was delayed for about 30 minutes due to rain and lightning.
Russellville head coach Mark Heaton said he was proud of the way his team kept fighting despite the sloppy play.
“I’m extremely proud of how hard our boys played,” Heaton said. “Even after playing as sloppy as we did in that first half, they never gave up. God has given us a great group of kids and they never give up out there.”
The first half was a tale of missed opportunities and penalty-plagued play that saw Russellville head to the locker rooms down 9-6.
“Our defense played great right out of the gates,” Heaton said.
“We probably had five or six drops plus some big penalties that set us back in the first half. It was hard for us to get much going.”
After the first half of the season, the Golden Tigers looked like everything was going their way. They were 5-0 and sitting on top of 5A Region 8 behind electric offensive production and a stout defense headed up by first-year head coach Heaton and company. But things can turn quickly in this world. Sometimes they turn in your favor and sometimes things seemingly turn against you for no reason.
On Sept. 28, the Russellville High School football captain and standout, Austin Kitterman, was seriously injured in an all-terrain vehicle crash. Kitterman is on a long road to recovery, but for a while no one was sure what the outcome would be.
“You know, it really did seem like we had everything going for us leading right up to the Sparkman game,” Heaton said.
“And then after that weekend we’ve had a lot going on with our team. We’ve had injuries and losing people and losing our first game of the season—it can feel like everything is crashing down. But we’re all getting back on track, we’re getting back on track together. God put us here, in this situation, for a reason.”
Perhaps all the Russellville Golden Tigers need in their second half of the season is a couple of big plays.
Payton Nichols’ 50-yard touchdown pass to Colby Tompkins in the first half was keeping the Golden Tigers in the game, 9-6, at halftime. But West Point added a touchdown in the third quarter that had to be answered with a 12-yard touchdown run by Deyon Hill.
The Warriors split open the Golden Tiger defense for a long touchdown run to make the score 22-13.
A team without Russellville’s heart might have wilted, but Coach Heaton said that’s not how his team reacts.
“I’m proud of our entire team and how no one out there ever gave up,” Heaton said.
“We’ve got players like Reed Smith who I don’t think ever came off the field other than for a short time when he was cramping up.
“We’ve got kids like Cameron DeArman who play their tails off and never give up—that’s the heart of our team.”
DeArman blocked two punts, including one in the fourth quarter that gave the Golden Tigers the ball and set up a touchdown. DeArman also scored two touchdowns to decide the game.
“After going further down in the second half, I thought our team did a really great job of rallying and taking over that game,” Heaton said.
“We started rotating some running backs in there and our offensive line took control. Our defense continued to play great all night and kept giving us a chance to win the game and I really think our offensive line fed off that and just took over.”
The Golden Tigers now sit at 6-1 overall and 4-1 in Region 8 ahead of their final three games of the season.
Russellville hosts Lawrence County Oct. 17 for Homecoming before traveling to Huntsville on Oct. 24 to play their final regional matchup against Pope John Paul. Russellville ends their regular season on the road to Cullman on Oct. 31.