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Golden Tigers start season with win over Decatur Red Raiders

The Russellville Golden Tigers opened the 2021 varsity football season with a 27-15 home win Thursday night over the Decatur Red Raiders.

The RHS boys used their quick-strike ability in the passing game on offense, a rushing touchdown and a special teams’ score in the first half to earn a 27-9 lead after two quarters of play. Both teams were slowed by turnovers in the second half, and the Russellville defense, featuring a large number of new starters this year, made stops to help the team to victory.

“It’s always great to start off 1-0,” said Russellville head coach John Ritter. “The test of a team is how much you improve from game one to game two. So, we’re very excited about going back to work on Monday preparing for obviously a huge game for our community, which is Deshler, and seeing how much we improve.

“The effort was there, and the energy was there,” Ritter added. “We did a lot of good things – and we did a lot of bad things, too. We expected that, and that’s what we told our guys: They’re going to make mistakes, so make them 100 miles an hour.”

Russellville received the opening kickoff after a weather delay and took four snaps to electrify the home crowd. Quarterback Gabe Amick threw a long pass to TJ King for a 60-yard touchdown. Edwin Jimenez added the extra point kick.

A long return of the ensuing kickoff by Decatur set the Red Raiders up with field position at the Russellville 27-yard line. DHS was able to move the ball to the Russellville three, but a dropped snap on a field goal attempt and an incomplete pass on the play left the Raiders scoreless on the drive.

Three plays later, the Decatur defense made a tackle in the end zone for a safety to make the score 7-2 with 4:34 remaining the first quarter.

Three plays after the following RHS kickoff, Decatur took the lead on a 34-yard touchdown pass, and the extra point was good to make the score 9-7 late in the opening period.

The Golden Tigers regained the lead for good on the first play of the second quarter when Conner Warhurst capped a seven-play drive with an 8-yard touchdown run. The Jimenez point-after attempt was blocked, and the score was 13-9 in favor of RHS.

The following Decatur drive stalled, and Grayson Thorpe blocked a Red Raider punt. Nicklaus Pounders recovered the ball for a touchdown.

Manny Martinez was good on the PAT kick, and with 8:27 remaining in the half, the Golden Tigers led 20-9.

Russellville’s Martin Tomas recovered a fumble to end the next DHS drive, and three plays later, the Amick to King connection struck again. This time, a 53-yard throw-and-catch for another RHS touchdown was the result, and Martinez added the extra point to make the score 27-9 with 4:14 to go in the second quarter. Conner Warhurst then intercepted a Decatur pass on the Red Raiders’ next possession, and the junior took the ball back all the way into the end zone.

A Russellville penalty for a block in the back on the return nullified the score, but RHS kept the ball.

The second half began with a first drive interception by Russellville’s Malachi Duncan, but RHS fumbled the ball back to the Red Raiders a few plays later.

The final scoring play of the night came on the first play of the fourth quarter when Decatur picked up a TD on an 11-yard passing play. The final Red Raider possession was stopped by an interception by Russellville.

RHS will host the Deshler Tigers Aug. 27 in a battle of long-time rivals. Deshler is 0-1 on the season after a loss to Muscle Shoals in their opening game.