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Madison Academy comes from behind to defeat RHS in regular season finale

There was a playoff-type atmosphere surrounding the final regular-season football game of the year Thursday night at Madison Academy, as the No. 6 in Class 5A Russellville Golden Tigers visited the top-ranked in 4A Mustangs.

It was the first-ever meeting on the gridiron between the two programs, which both have a history of success. The game was one that won’t soon be forgotten, as Madison Academy came from behind to defeat RHS by a 34-20 final score.

Both squads are headed to the playoffs, but neither team was interested in simply cruising into the postseason.

Emotions ran high throughout the contest, and things boiled over in the fourth quarter when Russellville head coach John Ritter was ejected after multiple sideline warnings were issued against the Golden Tigers.

Ritter declined to comment on the matter after the game.

The two teams played a scoreless first quarter. Madison Academy threatened to score in the opening period, but a fumble inside the RHS 10-yard-line recovered by Martin Tomas stopped the drive.

Russellville took a 7-0 lead on the second play of the second quarter when TJ King fielded a bouncing punted ball and ran around, through and over the Mustangs on his way to a long touchdown return that was followed by a Manny Martinez PAT kick.

The Mustangs finished their next possession with a 27-yard field goal to make the score 7-3.

RHS took three plays to answer, when Gabe Amick threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Randell Johnson, set up by a 53-yard run by Conner Warhurst.

With RHS owning a 14-3 advantage, a fumble by the Golden Tigers gave the Mustangs an opportunity to score before the half, and Madison Academy took advantage, completing a fourth-and-10 pass for a 39-yard TD to make the score 14-10 at the break.

Madison Academy grabbed the lead for the first time in the contest on the first snap of the second half when the Mustangs got a 65-yard gallop for a touchdown on a running play to make the score 17-14.

After the two defenses made stops, Russellville regained the lead. Malachi Duncan ran for a 29-yard touchdown to put the Golden Tigers ahead 20-17 with 6:19 to go in the third period.

The Mustangs evened the score with a 47-yard field goal later in the third.

The next Madison Academy drive was filled with drama. The RHS defense held the Mustangs on the first three plays, but Madison Academy faked a punt, and the pass by the punter was completed for a first down.

On the second play of the fourth quarter, Russellville’s Gavin Slay sacked the quarterback on third down, but a disputed penalty on the Golden Tigers kept the drive alive, which later led to an 11-yard TD run to put the Mustangs up 27-20.

The Golden Tigers tried to return the favor on the next possession with a fake punt of their own, but the run by Duncan came up inches short of the first down.

Soon after, the Russellville head coach was ejected, and the Mustangs would grow their lead to 34-20 with an 8-yard scoring run with 3:54 left on the game clock.

“We played really well for three quarters,” Ritter said. “We’ve got to finish against a good team, and we’re going to have an opportunity next week to put four quarters together. If we do that, we’re going to be hard to handle, and if we can’t play four quarters, then it’s going to be hard to win a play-off game.”

Russellville (8-2) will host Lincoln (6-4) in round one of the AHSAA Class 5A playoffs Nov. 5.

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