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Strong performance gives Golden Tigers region championship

The Russellville Golden Tigers went into Friday night’s homecoming football game against the East Limestone Indians needing a win to secure the school’s first region championship since 2015 – and they got it with a 35-19 victory.

Both teams entered the contest tied atop the Class 5A, Region 8 standings, and by defeating the Indians, RHS improved to 7-1 overall and 5-0 in the region. The Golden Tigers will be a top seed in the playoffs.

“I’m so proud. All those mornings in the summer… all the early mornings from August until now are paying off,” said Russellville head coach John Ritter. “In the first half, I thought that was the best we’ve played all year long in all three phases. With the exception of about two drives in the second half on offense and two drives on defense, that’s the best we’ve played all year long.”

The Golden Tigers got a solid performance from starting quarterback Gabe Amick. The move of early-season starting QB Conner Warhurst to running back, as Boots McCulloch continues to heal from an injury, has payed dividends; he and Caleb Mathews have been a strong force in the backfield behind the blocking of the offensive line that is led by Edgar Amaya.

Russellville’s defense forced a punt on East Limestone’s first possession, and the Golden Tigers took the ball down the field and scored on their opening drive, Warhurst scoring on a 15-yard run. Cristhian Cano was perfect on the night with extra-point kicks, and his PAT made the score 7-0 with 4:36 to go in the opening quarter.

ELHS evened the score with a touchdown on the third play of the second period on a 5-yard run. Russellville answered right back with a scoring drive that featured a 38-yard third-down pass from Amick to TJ King. The duo teamed up to finish the drive with an 11-yard TD pass on a fourth-down play.

The RHS defense then quickly forced a short punt, and the Golden Tigers were back on the move. Nathan Brockway gained 31 yards on a flip from Amick on another fourth-down conversion to set up the second Warhurst TD of the night.

A high snap on a punt attempt by East put RHS within striking distance just before the half. A fake field goal resulted in a score when Amick took the snap and pitched ahead to Brockway for another touchdown.

Russellville had the ball for six plays in the third quarter, and ELHS put together a 17-play scoring drive in the period to make the score 28-13 going into the fourth. Russellville’s final touchdown of the game came on a 2-yard run by Warhurst with 3:58 to go, and East Limestone found the end zone with just over a minute to go in the contest on a 51-yard scoring play.

RHS is now scheduled to play Lee-Huntsville in another region game at home on Oct. 23 in a matchup that was originally slated to be played in Huntsville Oct. 22.