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Play-off loss ends Golden Tigers’ season

By Brannon King for the FCT

The 2016 high school football season came to an end for Russellville Friday night in Birmingham as the Golden Tigers fell 33-13 to the Briarwood Christian School Lions in an AHSAA Class 5A second round playoff game.

Russellville (8-4) fell behind 23-0 to begin the game and could never claw back, even though the Golden Tigers were only outscored 10-6 in the second half. The two teams’ defenses kept the opposing team from scoring in the entire third quarter.

“I’m thankful for the year that we had,” Russellville Head Coach Mark Heaton said. “The kids won a lot of tough ballgames. We could have very easily been a four-seed going into the playoffs. Instead, we battled for the region title.”

The group of seniors played an important role this year. “It’s a great group of seniors. They’ve been here since I walked on campus. 27-9 in three years is a pretty good run for this group. I’m very proud of them,” Heaton said.

Briarwood (11-1) scored on their opening drive of the game, successfully going for the two-point conversion to put the Lions up 8-0. Russellville’s next possession ended with a punt, and Briarwood used eight plays to find the end zone again.

On the first play of the second quarter, the Lions threw another TD pass and had lined up to kick the PAT, but RHS had too many men on the field. After that penalty, Briarwood chose to go for two, to make it 16-0.

The Golden Tigers chose to punt on fourth and one at their own 41-yard-line to end their next possession, and five plays later, the Lions were in the end zone again for a score. The extra-point kick made it 23-0 in favor of the Lions with 7:52 left in the first half.

A a determined Payton Nichols led a Russellville scoring drive to get RHS on the board. The senior quarterback had a key third down run and a nice third down pass to Devin Buckhalter to again move the chains. Nichols then scored on a 3-yard run with 3:04 left in the half before Marvin Betancourt added the extra-point kick.

Briarwood had two field goal attempts on two separate possessions before the half, and both were blocked by Russellville’s Colin Garrison.

After a scoreless third quarter, Zaye Boyd got RHS going in the fourth with a 42-yard touchdown run. The try-for-two failed, but the Golden Tigers were only trailing by 10 points with 11:05 remaining in the game.

The Lions capped a big 11-play scoring drive that featured only one pass with a 22-yard field goal. Russellville’s next drive ended on a turnover on downs, and then BCS scored their final TD of the night two plays later.

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