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Golden Tigers come out victorious in spring game

Spring football practice for the Russellville Golden Tigers wrapped up May 17 with a win over the Shelby County Wildcats.

Russellville hosted the 5A Shelby County team and took a 35-14 victory. The RHS defense allowed two touchdowns, with the first coming on the opening possession by the Wildcats after a Russellville drive stalled and the other on the first play of the fourth quarter.

The game was an opportunity for the starters to get playing time against an opponent and for all players to get on-field experience in a game-like atmosphere in front of fans, cheerleaders and the band.

“We’ve had eight outstanding practices, and that’s a great way to end the spring on a high note – playing a very quality Shelby County team,” said Russellville head coach John Ritter.

The Golden Tigers got the ball first, and quarterback Jacob Bishop, a senior transfer from Muscle Shoals, got things off to a promising start with a 48-yard keeper on the game’s first play. RHS then moved inside the Shelby County red zone before turning the ball over after a fourth-down run came up just short of the line to gain.

Eight plays later, the Wildcats got on the scoreboard first when with a 33-yard touchdown pass. The extra-point kick was no good, and with 5:34 to go in the first quarter, Shelby County led 6-0.

A fumble put an end to the next RHS drive, and then the Wildcats put together a 20-play possession that resulted in no points; RHS’ Grayson Eady broke up a third-down pass, and a fourth-down attempt also fell incomplete in the second quarter.

The next RHS drive started with a 28-yard run by JD Price and then a 27-yard pass completion from Bishop to Nathan Brockway. Five plays later, however, the drive ended with an interception by the Wildcats.

The Russellville defense then stood strong and stopped Shelby County on four plays to get the ball back. The next RHS possession resulted in points, as Bishop again found an open Brockway for a big gainer and followed that up with a completion to Rowe Gallagher for another first down. Then, Bishop executed a zone-read to perfection and kept the ball himself for a 31-yard TD run.

The Miguel Flores extra-point kick was good to make the score 7-6 with 1:17 left in the half.

After a three-and-out by the RHS defense, the offense took over again – and Bishop scored again, this time on a 46-yard run, just before the half. The Flores PAT kick put the Golden Tigers up 14-6 at the break.

The second half began with a defensive stop by Russellville, and then running back Airreon McCullouch put together good carries behind the blocking of the offensive line. Quarterback Gabe Amick started the second half for RHS, and he went 3-4 passing on his opening drive. Amick completed passes to Daniel Juan-Francisco and Trey Glass before throwing to Bryant Hyde for a 12-yard TD.

Julian Ambrosio added the first of his three extra-point kicks in the game to give Russellville a 21-6 lead with 4:32 to go in the third quarter.

Shelby County brought the score to 21-14 with a 4-yard touchdown run on the first play of the final period. The successful two-point try was the Wildcats’ last scoring play of the evening.

An Amick pass to Blake Pruitt was a key play on the next RHS drive that was capped off by a TD run by Caleb Matthews, who was breaking tackles on his way to the end zone for a 9-yard scoring play.

Hank Cartee of Russellville recovered a Shelby County fumble to set up the last scoring drive of the game. Jacob Davis threw a 29-yard pass to David Baltazar to set things up, and Baltazar finished it off with a 3-yard touchdown run.

Three quarterbacks saw playing time for Russellville. “I thought all three of them played well,” Ritter said. “Bishop had a good first half, Amick had a good third quarter and part of the fourth and then Jacob (Davis) came in and led the third bunch down for a touchdown. I’m very, very proud of all those guys on offense.”

“Defensively, it took us two series to get adjusted, which is normal in any game but much less a spring game. Then, once we settled in, that older bunch kept them off the scoreboard,” Ritter said.