RHS wins in double OT

By Brannon King / For the FCT

The Russellville-Deshler football series has a history of producing great games, and the latest meeting between the two schools is one that will likely stay in Golden Tiger memories for a long time.

On a night that new head coach John Ritter made his regular season debut on the RHS sideline, the Russellville team took a 40-34 double-overtime home win over their rival from Tuscumbia.

The contest started just as it ended, as senior running back Zaye Boyd scored on a touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage and later on the game’s last play to give Russellville a thrilling victory. Boyd scored five touchdowns on runs of 34, six, one, 61 and two yards to account for all but one of the RHS TDs on the night.

The other Russellville score came when Lucas McNutt, making his first start as varsity quarterback, threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to fellow senior Devin Buckhalter in the first overtime period.

“What a resilient bunch of guys,” Ritter said. “I love my kids; they play. We didn’t do a lot of things right, but boy, they played hard. Double-overtime win – what a game!”

Ritter said he understands the importance of the season’s first win and knows there’s a lot more football left to be played this season.

“Deshler’s got a great team,” he said. “They’re really good, and to get out of here with a win, that’s huge for what we’re building.

“What we need to understand is that it’s one game. Now, it’s a big game, and I’d rather be 1-0 and learn lessons as opposed to being 0-1 and learn lessons, but at the end of the day, it’s one game – but what a game it was.”

It only took 24 seconds for Russellville to score its first touchdown of the season. Rowe Gallagher had a long kickoff return, and Boyd’s impressive 34-yard TD put the Golden Tigers up 6-0. The extra-point kick was blocked, but RHS set the tone for an exciting game.

Deshler (0-2) took four plays to even the score as quarterback Channing Marmann found Hayden Stutts for a 51-yard touchdown pass. The PAT kick was good, and less than two minutes into the first quarter, both teams had scored.

After a Russellville punt, Deshler scored again to finish a nine-play drive and take a 14-6 lead. Both defenses then held strong for a few possessions, forcing punts, and Russellville took the ball after a good return by Wylie Boyd to start a game-tying drive. McNutt completed a couple of key passes – one to Boyd and another to Buckhalter – to set up a TD run by Boyd. McNutt then converted the two-point try to even the score with a dive toward the pylon.

Deshler answered right back on the next possession with a score but lost their starting quarterback in the process. On a 32-yard QB run to get the ball to the RHS two-yard line, Marmann suffered a leg injury and did not return to the game. The DHS senior could be seen on the sideline during the second half on crutches.

Three plays after the injury, Deshler’s Kam Pritchard threw a jump-pass to Tegan Graves for a five-yard touchdown, and Deshler took a 21-14 lead into the half.

Nicholas Whitten took over as Deshler QB in the second half, and the Russellville defense forced a punt that was blocked by Ashaad Williams. Russellville’s next possession looked promising, but an end-zone interception stopped the drive.

Later, two fourth-down runs by McNutt kept a scoring drive for RHS alive, and Boyd capped it off with his third TD of the game. The Kenner Perez extra-point kick evened the score with 1:26 remaining in the third quarter.

Deshler took back the lead on an eight-yard Pritchard touchdown run, but it only took Russellville one play to tie the game again. Boyd raced 61 yards down the sideline and finished the run by carrying a defended into the end zone for a tremendous touchdown that electrified the large home crowd.

Perez made the PAT to even the score at 28-28 and followed that up with a good open-field tackle on his kickoff with just over 10 minutes remaining in regulation.

The Russellville defense made big plays to finish out the fourth quarter, highlighted by tackles by Gage Cook, Albaro Francisco and Brooks Scott. Nate Green recovered a DHS fumble with a minute to go in the fourth quarter for a big defensive play for the Golden Tigers.

Russellville got the ball first in overtime, and McNutt found Buckhalter for a 15-yard TD pass on third down. The extra-point kick was tipped by the Deshler rush and came up short. DHS looked to be in position for the win when Whitten rolled out and found Stutts on fourth down for a nine-yard scoring pass. However, the Russellville rush created pressure on the PAT attempt, and the kick was low and no good, sending the game into double-overtime.

Deshler got the ball first on the RHS 10-yard-line to start the final overtime and tried a 24-yard field goal on fourth down, which was blocked by Russellville. Boyd gained eight yards on first down, and on the next play he scored the game-winning two-yard TD to begin a well-earned big celebration by the Golden Tigers. Ritter sprinted up the stadium steps to join band director Jeremy Willis during the playing of the alma mater.

“We’ve got a fabulous cheering section, and we’ve got a fabulous band and great cheerleaders,” Ritter said. “Stephanie Mayfield and Jeremy Willis do a fabulous job, and we’re trying to build something special here. It’s a culture, and it’s something where we all can just love each other and have fun.”

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