The Tigers traveled to Huntsville for a matchup with 5A Mae Jemison at Alabama A&M’s Lewis Crews Stadium Thursday night.
It didn’t take long for the Hartselle offense to get hot as they took a 7-0 lead on a nine-play, 51-yard drive that took 2:22 off the clock when JT Blackwood connected with Izayah Fletcher for a 10-yard touchdown pass. Blackwood and Fletcher combined for two catches and 16 yards, while Black hit Eli Tidwell for a 34-yard connection for his first completion of the game.
The Tigers’ defense asserted their dominance from the start of the Jaguars’ first possession. Coleman Mizell tackled a Mae Jemison running back for a three-yard loss, and Dalton Green followed that up with a nine-yard sack of the Jaguars’ quarterback. Green brought down the Jaguars’ QB again for a four-yard loss to force a fourth-down punt. Hartselle held Jemison to minus 16 yards of offense on the opening drive.
After taking over at the Jaguars’ 20-yard line, the Tigers’ quick-strike offense scored again, this time taking only 12 seconds off the clock. Armadheo Dunigan scored on a 15-yard run to give Hartselle a 14-0 lead.
The defense held the Jaguars’ to four yards on their second drive and forced Jemison into their second punt of the game, this one for 14 yards, that gave the Tigers the ball at the 47-yard line.
Blackwood hit Tidwell with a short pass across the middle that Tidwell took 53 yards for another Tigers’ score, taking just 10 seconds off the clock. The touchdown was the first of the junior’s career. With 4:18 left in the first half, Hartselle led 21-0.
The Jaguars picked up 19 yards on their third possession of the game, 15 coming on a pass interference call, but could only manage to move the ball to the 40-yard line before being forced to punt once again. The third punt of the game gave the Tigers the ball at their 41-yard line.
Blackwood continued his hot start to the season when he hit RJ Gray in stride for a 58-yard touchdown pass with 42.7 seconds left in the first quarter to give Hartselle a 28-0 lead. The play took 10.7 seconds off the clock.
Blackwood was 6-for-9 in the first quarter for 163 yards and three touchdowns. Tidwell had two receptions for 87 yards, Fletcher had two for 16 yards, and gray had one for 58 yards. Dunigan ran the ball three times for 31 yards. The Tigers finished with 183 yards while holding the Jaguars to a negative four yards of total offense.
Hartselle pushed their lead to 34-0 on their first drive of the second quarter when Dunigan scored on a five-yard run with 8:45 left in the half. Blackwood, who would exit the game following the drive, completed his final pass when he hit Zeke McHan for a 16-yard pick-up. DJ Bishop ran twice for 28 yards in the drive.
The Tigers added a final score with 4:25 left in the half when Jack Smith ran seven yards for a touchdown to extend the lead to 41-0. The big play was a Smith to Tidwell connection for 30 yards.
Hartselle’s Coleman Mizell ended the Jaguars’ best drive of the first half when he intercepted a Mae Jemison pass at the 16-yard line with 24.8 seconds left in the half.
Hartselle took a 41-0 lead into halftime after scoring on six of their seven possessions in the first half. The Tigers finished the half with 312 yards of total offense. They had 210 yards passing and 102 yards rushing. Dunigan finished with five carries for 44 yards and two TDs, Bishop had six carries for 51 yards, and Smith had one carry for 7 yards and a TD.
The teams would play the second half with eight-minute quarters and a running clock due to the 41-0 score.
The Jaguars’ only possession of the second half took 10:04 off the clock when they had a 16-play, 60-yard drive that ended at the Tigers’ two-yard line. Hartselle played a defense consisting of ninth and tenth graders that saw Mae Jemison move the ball down the field and threaten the shutout. But it was the play of Jake Haynes forcing the Jaguarss’ QB out of bounds at the two-yard line to preserve the shutout. Haynes and Jake England each had 3.5 tackles on the drive, while Noah Gibson had 2.5 tackles.
The Tigers’ final possession of the game took the final 5:56 off the clock with a 10-play, 88-yard drive. Gage Roberts and Jace Preuitt combined to run the ball nine times for 82 yards. Roberts finished 43 yards on three carries, while Preuitt had 39 yards on six carries.
Hartselle finished the game with 400 yards of total offense. They had 210 yards passing and 190 yards rushing.
It is the first time since 2011 that the Tigers have opened the season with back-to-back shutouts. That year they opened with three shutouts on their way to the State Championship.
“The first half was a sign of us being a veteran team. We executed on every drive in the half,” said Hartselle coach Bryan Moore. “I was pleased with the play of our offense and defense. To have two shutouts in a row is huge.”
Hartselle (2-0) has outscored their opponents 70-0, heading into their matchup next week at Cullman to open region play.
“We have our work cut out for us heading to Cullman,” Moore said. “We need a better start to the game than we had last season.”