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Golden Tigers squeak past Jaguars, 21-20

By Brannon King for the FCT


For the second time in three weeks, the Russellville Golden Tigers found a way to win a big home game in the final seconds against a Class 5A, Region 8 opponent from Huntsville. Friday night, RHS defeated the Mae Jemison Jaguars 21-20 to stay unbeaten.

Russellville running back Zaye Boyd managed to push a pile of Golden Tigers and Jaguars just over the goal line with 21 seconds remaining for a game-tying 5-yard touchdown run. Then, with star kicker Marvin Betancourt out for the entire game with an injury, Cody Boshell filled in and kicked the crucial extra point to give Russellville the advantage.

Jemison then took the short kickoff all the way back, setting off a celebration from the Jaguars’ sideline, but the ball could not be advanced due to a fair catch signal and the official’s whistle before the advancement of the ball on the return. Jemison then took over at mid-field with 20 seconds remaining and proceeded to complete three straight passes. With four seconds on the clock, a 40-yard field goal attempt fell well short, and the third-ranked in 5A Golden Tigers (4-0, 3-0) had another thrilling win.

“We’ve played three region games, and we’ve been tested every game,” Russellville head coach, Mark Heaton said. “Two of those games have come down to the wire. I think these moments, if you handle them right, they will prepare you for things to come.”

Russellville’s defense found a way to shut out the Jaguars for the final three quarters after falling behind 20-7 to start the game.

Mae Jemison scored on their first possession when Brandon Crosby found Brandon McCarver for an eight-yard TD pass to cap a ten-play, 75-yard scoring drive. Next, on a key play in the game, Russellville’s Sid Willis blocked the extra-point attempt.

It only took RHS three plays to answer. Payton Nichols passed to Logan Jones for a 55-yard touchdown to tie the score at 6-6. Boshell added the first of his three extra-point kicks in the game to make it 7-6.

The Jaguars then went 77 yards, needing only four plays to regain the lead. Crosby found Jamar Jackson this time for a 56-yard scoring strike, and the extra point made it 13-7 mid-way through the first quarter.

Russellville gave the ball right back to Jemison on a fumbled kickoff return. Ten plays later, the Jaguars scored again on a Crosby to Jackson throw and catch to make it 20-7.

Russellville’s next drive featured one fourth down conversion, but they needed two. On fourth and one at the Jaguars’ 6-yard-line, a RHS handoff failed to gain, and Jemison had the ball again. The Jaguars then looked to have another touchdown pass, but an ineligible receiver was downfield to take away the 40-yard TD pass. Nine plays later, Russellville’s Landon Ezzell intercepted a Jemison pass on third and goal for a big stop for the Golden Tigers.

Just before the half, another Jemison drive came up just short when the Jaguars advanced the ball down to the RHS 10 yardline on the final play of the second quarter.

Russellville’s second drive of the second half brought more scoring success. Theran Pounders caught a Nichols pass for a 22-yard gain to put RHS in business. Boyd scored from five yards out on fourth down and three to make it 20-14 with 2:52 remaining in the third quarter.

Then, a failed onside kick from Russellville was followed four plays later by a 32-yard TD pass for Jemison that was called back because of offensive pass interference. The Jaguars made a big decision to go for it on fourth and inches at the RHS seven yard line early in the fourth quarter, instead of attempting a short field goal. The decision did not pay off for the Jaguars, as Russellville’s Kevin Partrich stopped the quarterback for a loss on the play.

The Jemison defense forced RHS to punt after a short possession, giving the Jaguars good field position. The drive ended without points as Robert Hamilton tipped a Jemison pass in the end zone and Colin Garrison intercepted it to end the scoring threat.

After the two teams traded punts, Russellville took over at their own six yard line, and it was time for the game-winning drive. A couple of key passes from Payton Nichols to Devin Buckhalter, mixed nicely with carries by Boyd, got the Golden Tigers into the end zone. Boyd finished the night with 122 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns for RHS.

Russellville will take on the undefeated 6A Hartselle Tigers Friday in the Golden Tiger’s Homecoming game.