Russellville defense plays stingy to clobber Jemison

Senior Night came early for Russellville this year, and it was a memorable one, as the Golden Tigers defeated the Mae Jemison Jaguars by a 41-0 score in a Class 5A, Region 8 contest.

The shutout was the second straight of an opponent by the RHS defense to open the season after the Golden Tigers blanked Decatur 28-0 in a Week 0 win. Russellville was back in action Friday night after having a week off because of an Aug. 28 forfeit by Deshler.

The last time an RHS defense held two straight opponents scoreless was in 2015, when the Golden Tigers defeated St. John Paul II and Cullman to finish up the regular season that year.

“This is a special group,” said Russellville head coach John Ritter in praising his seniors. “These guys have been with us since they were leaving their freshman year, so they’ve been ours the whole time.

“They mean the world to this program, and when you look over there, we started with about 24 (seniors), and I think we’ve got about 30 now,” Ritter added. “Not only have they stayed with us, but they’ve got people out of the hallways to play with us. That’s huge, and I think it speaks volumes for our program, and I think it speaks volumes for our senior class and the leadership that they show.”

Russellville’s Grayson Eady intercepted a Mae Jemison pass on the Jaguars’ first possession to get things going for the Golden Tigers. On the next play, Boots McCulloch ran 24 yards for a touchdown, and the Cristhian Cano PAT kick put RHS up 7-0 with 7:57 to go in the opening quarter.

The next Mae Jemison drive stalled, but a roughing-the-punter penalty allowed the Jags to keep possession. However, on the next play, Eady intercepted another pass to give the ball back to Russellville.

It took two plays for RHS to make the Jaguars pay this time, as Caleb Mathews ran for a two-yard touchdown, and the Russellville lead grew to 14-0.

A long third-down pass from Conner Warhurst to TJ King put Russellville into scoring position in the second quarter. McCulloch finished off that drive with his second TD of the night on a one-yard carry and, with 4:15 to go in the half, RHS led by a 21-0 score.

The following kickoff was short, and Brody Logan of the Golden Tigers recovered it. Six plays later, Mathews scored on a 22-yard run, but the extra-point kick was no good.

Late in the first half, Ashaad Williams intercepted a Mae Jemison pass, and the Golden Tigers converted the turnover into points when McCulloch ran into the endzone on a four-yard carry.

The Cano extra-point kick was good this time, and RHS took a 34-0 lead.

With just less than a minute to go in the half, Gavin Slay recovered another Mae Jemison fumble, but the Jags were able to keep Russellville from scoring again in the second quarter.

After forcing an MJHS punt on the opening drive of the third period, Russellville’s first possession of the second half ended on the first play when a Warhurst pass was deflected and then intercepted.

Cody Logan got the ball back into Russellville’s control by recovering a fumbled snap a couple of plays later.

The Golden Tigers quickly made the Jags pay when Mathews scored again, this time on a 27-yard TD gallop for the only scoring play of the second half.

Caden Watts then got into the turnover action by intercepting a Mae Jemison pass.

The two teams traded possessions the rest of the way, with the Golden Tigers coming out on top for the win.