QUARTERFINALS: Golden Tigers head to Legion Field after wiping out Leeds
And then there was just one. The Russellville Golden Tigers dominated the Leeds Greenwave Friday night to advance to the quarterfinals of the Class 5A state playoffs.
Leeds seemed to briefly have some momentum going their way early in the second half, but a well-played blocked punt return for a touchdown sealed a dominating performance for the Golden Tigers.
Now Russellville goes on the road to the legendary Legion Field in Birmingham to take on the top-ranked team in Class 5A, the Ramsay Rams.
In Friday night’s battle of 9-2 teams in the AHSAA Class 5A football playoffs, Russellville hosted the Leeds Greenwave and took a 35-14 victory to advance.
Russellville jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead and was solid in all phases of the game, playing a physical brand of football throughout the contest.
“A very fun group to coach,” said Russellville head coach John Ritter. “They are warriors. There are not enough good words you can say about these guys – all 92 of them.”
The Golden Tigers got the ball first but were stopped on the opening drive of the game. RHS went for it on fourth down at the Leeds’ 14-yard-line but failed to get the first down.
Russellville’s strong defense then forced a punt, and then it took RHS six plays to score.
The first of two Conner Warhurst’s touchdowns of the night came when the sophomore scored on a 9-yard run with 5:21 to go in the first quarter. The TD was followed by the first of five successful extra-point kicks in the contest by Cristhian Cano.
The next Leeds possession lasted four plays. When the RHS defense knocked the ball loose, Angel Moreno was on the scene to recover the fumble and end the drive. Russellville converted the turnover into points when Gabe Amick found an open Nathan Brockway for a 4-yard touchdown pass to put the Golden Tigers up 14-0 near the end of the first quarter.
In they third quarter, Russellville put together an eight-play scoring march that featured all running plays and resulted in the second Warhurst TD of the contest. He would score this time on a 1-yard push into the end zone on a first-down play.
In the fourth quarter, the Golden Tigers grew their advantage to 28-14 when Warhurst blocked a Leeds punt and Ashton Boyd scooped up the ball and raced to the end zone for a score.
“That was a huge blocked punt,” Ritter said. “Ashton Boyd scoops it and scores. He’s a plugger for us; he does a lot of different things special teams-wise. That’s why he’s on special teams, is to make plays, and he came up with a huge one.”
The final RHS scoring drive was capped by a 2-yard TD run by Caleb Mathews.
As for this Friday, Ramsay is undefeated at 12-0, which includes one forfeit win over Parker early in the season.
Ramsay and Russellville have never played each other. Both teams do have a common opponent from this year in Fairfield. Russellville beat Fairfield 14-7 in the first round of the playoffs, and Ramsay beat Fairfield 34-12 in the regular season.
The Rams are averaging 39.8 points per game while giving up 12.9 points per game. Russellville (10-2) is averaging 33.6 points per game and giving up 10.6 points per game.
The Rams have one state title to their credit in 2016. Russellville got two state titles in back-to-back years, 1967 and 1968.