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Hartselle Tigers squelch RHS for homecoming loss, 45-38

By Brannon King

For the FCT


The Hartselle Tigers came to Russellville Friday night and dealt the Golden Tigers a 45-38 loss on homecoming.

After trailing by as many as 21 points in the game, the Golden Tigers (4-1, 3-0) fought hard and tied the score on a Colin Garrison interception return of a Hartselle pass for a touchdown. After Marvin Betancourt added the extra point kick, the score was even at 38-38 with 3:05 remaining.

With momentum and the large home crowd clearly on their side, the Russellville defense held strong on two-straight Hartselle handoffs, but then a 15-yard penalty on the Russellville sideline for contact with an official changed what would have been a third-and-ten at the Hartselle 20-yard-line to a first down for the visitors.

“We’ve got to do what we’re supposed to do and not be on the field,” Russellville Head Coach Mark Heaton said. “That’s on us, that’s on the coaches, that’s on me. I’ve got to do a better job of managing my sideline. We bumped into an official in the excitement of a big play, and I’ve got to do a better job of controlling my sideline. That’s on me.

“I looked on film, and it was a coach. We got excited; we got just to the edge of the field and bumped into an official, not intentionally, and we’ve got to do a better job. That’s our fault, and that hurt our kids, and we’ll fix that,” Heaton added.

Hartselle quarterback Trevor Oakes shook off the earlier interception by connecting on two key pass plays after the penalty to set up the game-winning touchdown. Facing a first-and-19 from his own 26 yard line, Oakes found Samuel Garner for a 20-yard completion. Then Oakes threw to Robert Godsey on third-and-15 for a 29-yard completion to keep the drive alive with just over a minute remaining in the game. Three plays later, Keondre Swoopes scored on a six-yard carry to put Hartselle back ahead with only 17 seconds left. A last second completion and lateral by Russellville came up empty, and 6A Hartselle (6-0) had survived.

“The missed assignments we had in the first half that put us in that position – that’s where we’ve got to get better as a football team,” Heaton said. “We’ve got guys that can make plays, we’ve got guys that can win the game, we’ve got a team that can play as long as they want to play. We’ve got to look at ourselves, and we’ve got to fix the mistakes that we’re bringing on ourselves.”

Hartselle jumped out to a 7-0 lead when Oakes threw to Garrett Wade for a 10-yard TD pass and Jarrod Galloway kicked the first of his five successful extra points in the game.

Russellville answered on their second drive of the night when Zaye Boyd took and handoff and raced 87-yards for a touchdown run. Betancourt, who made all of his extra-point kicks as well, added the PAT to make it 7-7.

Hartselle was prepared for the ensuing short and high kickoff. Instead of calling for a fair catch, Garrett Meyer split the RHS tacklers and took it all the way for a touchdown.

After the next Russellville possession resulted in a punt, HHS only needed four plays and a Golden Tiger personal foul penalty to score again. This time, Oakes threw to Garner for a 15-yard TD pass as time expired in the first quarter.

After picking off a Russellville pass, Hartselle was ready to strike again. Oakes completed three of his next four passes on a scoring drive that was capped by a Chandler Briggs 14-yard TD catch to put Hartselle up 28-7.

Russellville then put together a long, 15-play scoring drive. Betancourt kicked a 37-yard field goal to make the score 28-10 at the half.

The Golden Tigers clawed closer when Payton Nichols threw to Devin Buckhalter for a 35-yard TD pass on the first drive of the second half.

Hartselle then put together a 13-play scoring drive of their own. Galloway kicked a 33-yard field goal to put the Tigers ahead 31-17 with 3:51 remaining in the third quarter.

Using completions by Nichols to Buckhalter and Boyd, the Golden Tigers were on the move on their first possession of the final quarter. Nichols scored from nine yards out on a quarterback keeper to trim the Hartselle lead to only seven with 8:32 to go in the game.

Just when it looked like RHS had things headed in the right direction for a big comeback, Hartselle needed just one play to answer back. Oakes threw to Garner for a 59-yard TD pass to put the Tigers back ahead by two touchdowns.

The Golden Tigers never gave up. Sid Willis finished off a long drive for RHS with a one-yard TD run to again get his team to within seven points of Hartselle at 38-31.

Russellville then got even on the scoreboard with the Garrison interception return before Hartselle later took the win in the game’s final seconds.

Russellville will look to get back to their winning ways when the Golden Tigers host the St. John Paul II Falcons of Huntsville next.