Golden Tigers earn fourth-straight football region title with victory over Fairview
The Russellville Golden Tigers are football region champions for the fourth year in a row. RHS hosted the previously undefeated Fairview Aggies on Friday night, and the Golden Tigers won the highly-anticipated battle between ranked teams for the AHSAA Class 5A Region 8 crown by a score of 31-14.
Russellville improved to 6-0 in region play with the victory, and the Golden Tigers are now 8-1 overall with a regular season game at 6A Athens remaining on the schedule before RHS will host a first-round 5A playoff game.
“I’m so proud of our guys,” Russellville head coach John Ritter said. “I thought we played well. We put in the work Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to get where we have, and we’ve done it all year long. This senior class has been with us the whole time. From the time they were seventh graders, they have only known how we do things. To go out as seniors with four-straight region championships, that’s an awesome thing.”
The region titles are a testament to the work that’s done by all those who are involved. “It takes all 83 (players), it takes every coach, it takes the cheerleaders, the band. This is a whole program deal, this isn’t just a team accomplishment. What an awesome thing for our kids,” Ritter shared.
After the RHS defense forced a punt on Fairview’s opening drive of the game, the Golden Tigers got onto the scoreboard first with a 37-yard Manny Martinez field goal on the first Russellville offensive possession.
An early second quarter interception by Russellville’s Richard Scott put an end to a Fairview drive and later, with less than two minutes to go in the first half, Malachi Duncan took a handoff and carried the ball 57 yards to put the Golden Tigers within striking distance for more points before the break. With seven seconds on the second quarter clock, Cam Phinizee took a direct snap from center and crossed the goal line for a two-yard touchdown to give Russellville a 10-0 lead at the half.
The lead for the Golden Tigers grew to 17-0 with 7:10 to go in the third period when quarterback Harrison Burch completed a 22-yard touchdown pass to Bralynn Vincent that was followed by the extra-point kick by Martinez who previously helped RHS with field position for a 70-yard punt.
The next Fairview drive featured three consecutive pass completions, followed by a running play and then a 33-yard touchdown pass to make the score 17-7. Russellville was able to regain momentum with a sack by JT Hill that was followed soon after by a blocked punt by Zaye Hubbard. Two plays later, Phinizee scored on a six-yard run, and RHS was ahead 24-7 with 7:44 to go in the game.
The final touchdown of the night for the Golden Tigers was set up by a long return of a punt by Jah Williams. Cam Phinizee later punched-in a five-yard touchdown by absorbing the contact of a Fairview defender on his way to the end zone. Fairview’s 9-yard touchdown pass with only 26 seconds remaining in the contest finished the scoring.