HARTSELLE – There was reason to celebrate at JP Cain Stadium this past Friday following Hartselle’s 41-14 win over Decatur.
The Tigers (9-0, 5-0) clinched their second consecutive region championship with the victory. It is their first back-to-back championships since winning four straight from 2008-11.
The victory was Hartselle’s 22nd straight regular-season win dating back to coach Bryan Moore’s first season in Hartselle.
“It takes a lot of people to reach this point in a season and to be region champions makes everything much sweeter,” said Hartselle head coach Bryan Moore. “It was good to be back home and get this win in this awesome environment.”
Hartselle opened the scoring with a four-yard touchdown pass from Jack Smith to a wide-open Zeke McHan to make the score 7-0 with 7:15 remaining in the first quarter.
Smith scored on a six-yard run with 11:11 left in the second quarter to extend the lead to 14-0. He then connected with Eli Tidwell on a short pass that Tidwell took 66 yards to the end zone after making a Decatur defender miss near midfield. The pitch and catch score put the Tigers up 21-0 with 7:00 minutes remaining in the first half.
Decatur got on the scoreboard with 5:15 remaining in the first half when Ellis Dickman connected with Jayden Brown for a 27-yard touchdown pass. The Red Raiders’ score cut the Hartselle lead to 21-7 heading into halftime.
Smith gave the Tigers a 27-7 lead on a one-yard run with 7:03 left in the third quarter. The score was set up by Walker Hoyle’s first interception he returned to the five-yard line.
The Red Raiders cut the lead to 13 points following a 37-yard scoring strike from Dickman to Brown with 3:16 remaining in the third quarter.
Hartselle responded less than two minutes later when Smith scored his third touchdown, this time from three yards out to make the score 34-14 with 1:34 remaining in the quarter.
Ri Fletcher capped the Tigers’ scoring with a one-yard run to make the score 41-14 with 6:00 minutes left.
Hartselle freshman Cole Miles picked off Dickman late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory for the Tigers. It was Hartselle’s third interception of the game.
The Tigers outgained Decatur 412 – 267. Hartselle’s balanced attack finished with 212 yards rushing and 200 yards passing.
“I was pleased with our offensive performance against a really good Decatur defense,” said Moore. “I felt we ran the ball well against a stacked front for the Red Raiders.”
Smith finished 8-of-15 for 200 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 56 yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries.
Izayah Fletcher had two catches for 106 yards, while Tidwell had three for 83 yards and a touchdown.
Ri Fletcher had 82 yards rushing and a touchdown on 19 carries, while Lincoln Bryant had 61 yards on 10 carries.
Decatur’s Dickman finished 14-of-28 for 179 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Brown had seven catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns.
“Decatur’s Jayden Brown is a dude, he is a special player for them,” said Moore. “He made some big catches for Decatur, but Coach Newton and Coach Cole made some good adjustments in the second half that made a big difference in the game.”
Hartselle will have this week off before finishing the regular season against Bob Jones next Friday at JP Cain Stadium. Decatur (6-2) will play Buckhorn, Hartselle’s first-round playoff opponent, this Friday at Ogle Stadium.