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Golden Tigers crush Ardmore for big region victory

Going into Friday night’s game at Ardmore, the Russellville Golden Tigers looking for a little motivation. Having suffered their first loss the previous week at home against Hartselle, the Golden Tigers return to Class 5A, Region 8 play with an extra bounce in their collective steps courtesy of an unlikely source – the coach of the opposition.

In the current day of social media, an attempt to rally the home base into not being intimidated can sometimes backfire, as was the case when Ardmore coach PJ Wright, in his third year at the school, took to his online coach’s show with a game preview. After his remarks during the week of the game about the large number of players dressed for Russellville, the truck and trailer that gets the RHS equipment to the games and a prediction of victory for Ardmore over the Golden Tigers – which was quite incorrect, to the tune of a 41-3 score – Russellville was rolling out of town and headed back home Friday night with a win and the hopes of a region championship alive and well.

“They had some stuff that surfaced on social media guaranteeing wins and kinda disrespecting our program because we have a tractor-trailer and because we dress so many kids, and it just kinda got intense really,” said Russellville head coach John Ritter after the game.

Russellville had the ball first Friday night. The Golden Tigers were without running back Boots McCulloch, who had suffered an injury the week before. Gabe Amick got the start at quarterback, and Conner Warhurst shifted to the running back position after sharing time with Amick at the QB spot in previous games this season.

Caleb Mathews took on a larger role in the backfield, and he scored the game’s first touchdown on the opening RHS possession – a one-yard touchdown run – with 9:24 remaining in the opening quarter.

Cristhian Cano then added the first of his five successful extra-point kicks in the contest to make the score 7-0.

Ardmore got its only points of the night on the following possession. A roughing-the-punter penalty after what was going to be a three-and-out by the Russellville defense kept the drive going, and AHS finished it off with a 25-yard field goal with 3:24 to go in the first period.

A penalty, followed by a fumble, ended the next RHS drive; however, Ardmore kept the ball for only one play. Ashaad Williams reeled in his first of two interceptions of AHS passes on the night.

Nine plays later, Russellville was back in the end zone, as Warhurst took a handoff and raced 15 yards for a second-quarter TD.

After an Ardmore punt, Russellville was on the move again. Another scoring drive featured passes from Amick to TJ King and runs by the quarterback and Mathews, including his three-yard touchdown run just before the half.

The second half began with the two teams trading turnovers.

The second Russellville possession of the third quarter resulted in another RHS TD when Warhurst scored on a one-yard carry. The PAT kick was blocked, but with about a minute remaining in the third, RHS was ahead 27-3.

Ardmore then had the ball for two snaps on their next possession, as Ashaad Williams picked off another pass and took this one to the end zone for a 20-yard pick-six.

The fourth quarter saw emotions run high. Ardmore kept the ball on the ground for 12 plays to start the period before Grayson Eady intercepted an AHS pass on a fourth-down play to end a scoring threat.

On the next play, Amick threw long to an open TJ King for a 45-yard touchdown pass with 4:05 remaining in the game.

The play seemingly upset the Ardmore head coach, and he let his feelings be known to the RHS sideline from across the field.

Russellville would force another Ardmore punt before the conclusion of the contest, and the Golden Tigers then chose to take a knee to finish up the game while in Ardmore territory, rather than rubbing more salt into the AHS wound.

Things got intense after the final whistle as coaches exchanged words while meeting after the game before departing the field.

With the win, the Golden Tigers improved their record to 6-1 on the season, 4-0 in the region.

RHS will take a week off before hosting East Limestone Oct. 16. The Indians are currently tied atop the region standings with Russellville.