Hartselle moves on to the quarterfinals after a come-from-behind win over Center Point

The Tigers celebrate their second-round playoff victory over Center Point. Photo by Jim Meadows.
The Tigers celebrate their second-round playoff victory over Center Point. Photo by Jim Meadows.

HARTSELLE — Hartselle advanced to the state quarterfinals for the first time in 10 years following their 36-26 win over Center Point this past Friday.

The Tigers found themselves in unfamiliar territory early on but righted the ship to secure the victory.

"We didn’t play great early on, but we showed a little resilience to advance," said head coach Bryan Moore. "We found ourselves down by the largest margin of the season early in the game, but our team showed their heart in coming from behind."

Center Point jumped out to an early 14-0 lead with an interception return for a touchdown and then a long touchdown run by running back Troy Bruce.

However, the Tigers responded with 16 second-quarter points to take the lead heading into halftime.

The first Hartselle touchdown came on a 33-yard pass from Jack Smith to Izayah Fletcher with 9:05 left in the second quarter. Younger brother Ri scored six minutes later on a three-yard run to make the score 14-13.

Crawford Lang gave the Tigers their first lead of the game with an 18-yard field goal as time expired in the first half, putting Hartselle up 16-14.

Hartselle extended the lead to 23-14 when Smith ran 50 yards for a touchdown with 9:30 left in the third quarter.

Unfortunately, the Tigers found themselves trailing again, 26-23, following two more touchdowns by Center Point. The first on a three-yard run by Bruce and the second on a 40-yard touchdown pass following a Tigers’ turnover.

But the Tigers were not going away as Ri Fletcher scored on runs of 13 yards and two yards to put Hartselle up for good at 36-26.

Ri Fletcher finished with 164 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 30 carries. He also had 32 yards receiving on four catches.

Smith finished 16-of-21 passing for 195 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also had 76 yards rushing and a touchdown on nine carries.

Izayah Fletcher had 66 yards receiving and a touchdown on five receptions, while Elie Tidwell had 76 yards receiving on five receptions. Tidwell also had 19 yards rushing on six carries.

Jake Haynes led the defense with 12 tackles, while Peyton Steele, Kaden Worley and Porter Simmons had nine tackles each. Drake Borden had two interceptions, including one, as Center Point was looking to regain the lead late in the fourth quarter.

“Our defense made some adjustments in the second quarter and continued those in the second half to get the win,” Moore said.

Next week Hartselle (12-0) will travel to Mountain Brook (10-2) for the third round of the state playoffs.

“They are going to be the best team we have faced,” Moore said. “But it is going to be exciting! They are very similar to us in what they want to accomplish. They have an excellent head coach who has been doing this for a long time. We will have to be our very best for this matchup.”