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RHS football suffers first loss of 2019 season

Not much went right for the Russellville football team Friday night in Hamilton, as the third-ranked Golden Tigers fell to the Aggies by a 17-0 score.

Turnovers and penalties proved to be too costly to overcome for the Golden Tigers as they were handed their first loss of the season in an important Class 5A, Region 7 contest. 

Hamilton (6-1, 4-1) intercepted three Jacob Bishop passes, recovered three RHS fumbles and stopped the Golden Tigers once on downs. 

It was RHS’ first loss to Hamilton since 1991, and the defeat put the Golden Tigers (6-1, 4-1) in jeopardy of having to travel in round one of the upcoming playoffs. 

Russellville will host top-ranked and undefeated Jasper this Friday night and will travel to Dora (2-5, 0-5) Oct. 25 to finish region play. Hamilton will travel to Lawrence County Friday night and then will go to Jasper the following week.

RHS head coach John Ritter pinpointed “a lack of focus” to blame for Friday’s performance. “A lack of focus and a lack of execution on the offensive side,” he added. “We were just kind of going through the motions for whatever reason. That’s my job – to make sure that doesn’t happen – and that’s going to be corrected, I promise you.”

Hamilton took the opening kickoff and ran the ball on eight of their first nine plays from scrimmage before Michael Garcia kicked a 36-yard field goal to put the Aggies up 3-0. 

The first Russellville possession looked to be promising as the Golden Tigers took the ball to the Aggies’ 37-yard line on a drive aided by Airreon “Boots” McCulloch runs and a nice gainer on a pass from Bishop to Nathan Brockway. However, on a first-and-10 pass, a Hamilton defender grabbed an interception near the end zone, ending the RHS scoring threat.

After forcing the Aggies to punt, Russellville marched to the HHS 35-yard line, but an incomplete pass on fourth down gave the ball back to Hamilton on the first play of the second quarter. 

A three-and-out forced by the RHS defense followed, but another interception gave the ball back to the Aggies a few plays later.

The two teams traded punts, with the Golden Tigers looking good on the swaps, gaining in the field position battle. Russellville had first down at the HHS 25-yard line, but a Caleb Matthews fumble gave the ball right back to Hamilton. 

The next HHS possession ended when Russellville’s JD Bishop recovered a Hamilton fumble, but with 34 seconds remaining in the half, the Aggies picked off another RHS pass.

Any plan the Golden Tigers put into place for a second-half score would have to wait, as the kick-off return attempt was fumbled away to the Aggies. 

Eleven plays later, Hamilton converted the turnover into points, as Jathan Jackson scored on a four-yard quarterback keeper with 7:16 remaining in the third period. The fourth quarter featured another Jackson TD run and another fumble by RHS two plays later. 

The game marked the first time Hamilton has hosted Russellville on the football field since 1995. The two schools resumed play against each other last season, with the Golden Tigers taking that contest 65-34 at RHS.