RHS Golden Tigers face down new opposition
By Brannon King / For the FCT
The 2018 varsity football season will be the first at Russellville High School for new head coach John Ritter, and it will feature a schedule full of interesting opponents for the Golden Tigers.
With AHSAA region realignment comes changes to the schedule every couple of years. This season, only three teams from the 2017 schedule return on the slate for RHS.
The Golden Tigers, coming off of a 3-7 year in Class 5A, Region 8, will remain in 5A but will shift to Region 7. With the change, gone are the regular season contests against Lee-Huntsville, Mae Jemison, St. John Paul II, Brooks and Ardmore.
East Limestone is no longer a region game for RHS, but the Indians will come to Russellville for the pre-season jamboree game in Week 0.
Also leaving the schedule for 2018 are non-region games versus Hartselle and Colbert County, which allows for the addition of Haleyville and Central-Florence.
To help give fans a taste of the football season to come, here is a quick look at the games that will make up the 2018 schedule for the Golden Tigers.
Week 0: East Limestone Indians at Russellville (Jamboree)
Schools have the opportunity to play a jamboree game in Week 0 or have a regular season contest. Russellville will again use the opening week to prepare for the games that count with a jamboree.
Last year, RHS traveled to Athens. This season, East Limestone will come to town.
East Limestone went 5-5 last year under long-time head coach Jeff Pugh. The Indians just missed out on the playoffs in large part because of consecutive late-season losses to Russellville, 17-13, and Brooks.
East Limestone and county neighbors the Ardmore Tigers are the only returning teams to a new-look Class 5A, Region 8.
Week 1: Deshler Tigers at Russellville
The John Ritter era will officially get underway when the Deshler Tigers come to RHS in what is always one of the most anticipated games of the season in north Alabama.
For many years, the long-time rivals started the season against each other but now, Deshler skips the jamboree and plays for real in Week 0. Coach Bo Culver’s team will be coming off of their season-opener against Muscle Shoals when they face the Golden Tigers.
Last season Deshler came out on top against RHS by a 35-3 score on the way to a 7-4 season. Deshler lost in the opening round of the 4A playoffs at Dora 29-20, and the Tigers showed great improvement in Culver’s first season in Tuscumbia.
Week 2: Russellville at Corner Yellow Jackets
The 5A Yellow Jackets, led by coach Jon Clements, are new to the schedule and will share a region with RHS for the first time in 2018.
Corner lost in the first round of the 2017 5A playoffs to Mae Jemison, 44-0, and finished the year with a 5-6 record. Russellville fans will remember Corner from a recent trip there for a 5A baseball playoff semifinals series.
Week 3: Hayden Wildcats at Russellville
Hayden is also new to the schedule for RHS. The Wildcats were in 5A last season and dropped a round one play-off game by a 31-21 score to the Lee-Huntsville Generals to end their season.
Keith Register is the coach of the Wildcats, and they are coming off of a 5-6 record in 2017.
Week 4: Russellville at West Point Warriors
The Golden Tigers and Warriors are no strangers, with both schools returning to the same region after being separated for a couple of years.
Russellville has had success against the Warriors on the football field, and fans will remember the last trip to West Point in 2014 that featured a lightning delay before the start of a close RHS win.
Don Farley is the coach of the Warriors, and they finished 2017 with a 41-30 first round 5A playoff loss at Brooks. West Point is coming off of a 6-5 season last year.
Week 5: Russellville at Haleyville Lions
Two old-time football foes renew a rivalry that older generations of Golden Tigers know well.
With Haleyville being in 4A, the two schools haven’t met in recent seasons.
Coach Todd McNutt returns for his second season as head coach of the Lions after going 4-7 in 2017. Haleyville made the playoffs last year and fell in the first round at Rogers, 45-7. A
couple of familiar faces will be on the sideline, as former RHS assistants Andy Lambert and Ryan Brewer are on McNutt’s coaching staff.
Week 6: Lawrence County Red Devils at Russellville
The Golden Tigers return to region play in week six and look to get back on the winning side of the series against the Red Devils.
In 2017, LCHS won at Russellville by a 25-6 score in week 3 to give the Red Devils their first football win over RHS in many years. Lawrence County finished the year with a 5-6 mark and lost in the first round of the 5A playoffs at Mortimer Jordan, 28-12.
Coach Richard Dutton’s squad will be playing at Russellville for the second-straight season in 2018.
Week 7: Hamilton Aggies at Russellville
Another old series gets renewed when Hamilton comes to town in week seven. This game will be homecoming for RHS.
Coach Rodney Stidham’s Aggies move up this season to 5A after going 3-7 last year in 4A. Hamilton had wins last season against Haleyville, Central-Florence and Winfield.
Week 8: Russellville at Jasper Vikings
Russellville fans know the way to Ki-Ro Gambrell Field, as the Vikings return to the same region as RHS in 5A. It will be the first meeting of the two teams since the Vikings changed their school name from Walker to Jasper.
Jasper went 3-7 in 2017 and is led this year by head coach Bryan Moore. The Vikings had wins last season while participating in 6A over Hueytown, Northridge and Center Point.
Week 9: Dora Bulldogs at Russellville
The last regular season home game for Russellville could be a big one when Dora comes to town for senior night at RHS.
The Dora Bulldogs finished 2017 with a 9-3 record in 4A and won all of their home games. Head coach Bart Lockhart’s team narrowly missed out on being ranked in the first 5A poll of this year.
The Bulldogs advanced to round two of the playoffs last season after beating Deshler 29-20. Losses in 2017 came to Haleyville, Fayette County and Saks.
Week 10: Russellville at Central-Florence Wildcats
The regular season comes to an end for RHS with a trip to take on the 4A Wildcats of Coach Heath Wood.
Central went 5-5 in 2017 and missed out on the 4A playoffs. The two schools have met in the past but not in recent years.