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Golden Tigers send Red Devils packing, 43-27

By Brannon King for the FCT


The Russellville Golden Tigers battled the Lawrence County Red Devils Friday night and came away with a hard-fought 43-27 win in Moulton in front of a packed stadium.

Russellville (3-0, 2-0) got contributions from many different players in the victory, including a big night from Zaye Boyd. The sophomore running back carried the ball 19 times, rushed for 170 yards and scored three touchdowns.

The Golden Tigers stayed unbeaten on the season so far and took the important Class 5A, Region 8 game but had to overcome some obstacles along the way, including a stomach bug that hit the team during the days leading up to the game and the separate issue of a couple of suspensions that created a lack of depth for RHS during portions of the contest. A large number of penalties also hurt both teams during the game.

“I’m very proud of the win and the fact that the kids fought. They got the win and put the thing away there at the end. I think it should have been put away before that, and the only person we have to blame for that is ourselves,” Russellville Head Coach Mark Heaton said.

“We’ve had the stomach virus all week and had a couple of kids that were suspended for part of the game for missing a practice, so we’ve got those issues. Until we fix ourselves, we’re going to be in situations like this.

“This game should have been put away long ago, but we’re not doing the things we need to do as a team to put football teams away,” Heaton added.

Russellville took the ball to start the game but couldn’t get anything going on the opening possession. Lawrence County (1-2, 1-1) then went on a long, ten-play drive that came to an end when Russellville’s Bruce Ambrosio sacked the quarterback on a fourth-down play in RHS territory.

The Golden Tigers got on the board first when Payton Nichols threw to Devin Buckhalter for a ten-yard touchdown pass with 1:59 remaining in the first quarter. Marvin Betancourt added the first of his five extra-point kicks to give Russellville the 7-0 lead.

After another defensive stop, the Golden Tigers only needed one play to find the end zone again. Logan Jones was on the receiving end of another Nichols touchdown pass, this one covering 64-yards to give RHS the 14-0 advantage.

A costly roughing-the-kicker penalty against the Golden Tigers on Lawrence County’s next drive led to the Red Devils’ first touchdown on a 20-yard run by Jacob Gholston. Nathanial Ford added the extra-point for LCHS. Russellville answered just before the half when Sid Willis powered his way over the goal line for a four-yard TD carry to give his team the 21-7 lead after Zaye Boyd had kept the drive alive on a five-yard run to convert a fourth-down play.

The Red Devils drew to within seven points on their opening drive of the second half. Noah Barton scored on a run to cap a nine-play drive. The RHS offense answered again with the help of a key fourth-down trick play in which Payton Nichols threw to Devin Buckhalter, who then lateraled to Colin Garrison to pick up the first down. Two plays later, Boyd found the end zone on a two-yard TD carry to put RHS up by two touchdowns.

The Red Devils then kept the ball for a long, time-consuming 65-yard scoring drive, in which they kept the ball on the ground the entire distance down the field. Gholston again found the end zone to finish the drive, and LCHS made the score 28-21 in favor of Russellville.

Boyd went 44-yards for a TD run after he had already given the Golden Tigers good field position on the kickoff return. Lawrence County then went on another scoring march. Codey Blankenship ran 17-yards to answer the RHS TD with one of his own. The extra-point kick was no good, and with 6:21 remaining, RHS had a 35-27 lead.

The Golden Tigers showed great heart and determination by then taking the ball and driving 80 yards while chewing up the clock by running the ball with the help of the blocking by their strong and experienced offensive line. Boyd’s three-yard TD run finished off the Red Devils, and RHS added the two-point conversion after Betancourt had left the game because of an injury earlier in the fourth quarter. Logan Jones intercepted a late Lawrence County pass to put an end to the game.

Russellville will return home for their next game, which will be the school’s first meeting with the Mae Jemison Jaguars of Huntsville.