Hartselle shuts out Columbia to get homecoming win

Hartselle welcomed Columbia (0-4, 0-2) to JP Cain Stadium for a Friday night region matchup. The Eagles entered on a 47-game losing streak – and Hartselle kept that streak alive for a 56-0 homecoming victory. 

The Eagles’ last win came Oct. 16, 2015, when they defeated Ardmore 34-16. 

Following a Columbia punt on the Eagles’ first drive, the Tigers’ Crawford Land connected on a 35-yard field goal to give Hartselle a 3-0 lead with 7:42 left in the first. The Tiger defense forced the Eagles to punt for the second time following a Kelvin Morris sack of quarterback Lucas Witt that resulted in a loss of eight yards. 

The Tigers extended their lead to 10-0 following a Mookie Moore one-yard touchdown plunge with 4:16 to go in the first. Eli Tidwell caught two passes for 36 yards to get the Tigers into scoring position. 

The Tiger defense continued to shut down the Columbia offense. Brant Stringer sacked Witt for a seven-yard loss on third down to force a punt. 

Hartselle looked to be heading for a third score, but a fumble ended the drive and gave the ball back to the Eagles right before the end of the first quarter. 

The Tigers’ EJ Colbert started the second quarter with a blocked punt that Columbia recovered in their end zone for a safety, pushing the Hartselle lead to 12-0. 

Hartselle’s Eli Snelson fielded the ensuing Columbia free-kick at the 50-yard line and weaved his way down the Tigers’ sideline for a touchdown to extend the lead to 19-0. 

Peyton Steele intercepted an Eagle pass on Columbia’s next play and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown and a 26-0 lead. It was the first career interception for the freshman. 

Lang kicked a 48-yard field goal with 7:33 left in the second quarter to push the lead to 29-0 on the Tigers’ next possession. The defense set up the drive that held Columbia to its fourth consecutive drive of negative yards. Seth Lockett sacked Witt for a loss of seven yards for the Tigers defense. 

Hartselle would add three more scores in the final 4:58 of the half to extend their lead to 50-0 heading into halftime. Ri Fletcher scored on an eight-yard run; Moore added a 33-yard run for a score, and RJ Gray capped off the scoring with a 13-yard touchdown reception on a pass from JT Blackwood. 

The Tiger defense held Columbia to -21 yards in the first half as the defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage. Hartselle had five sacks in the first half for a loss of 29 yards and forced two interceptions. 

“We challenged our defensive line this week, and they responded,” said Hartselle Coach Bryan Moore. “EJ, Seth, and Kelvin have so much potential, and we need to get it out of them for us to continue to get better.” 

Hartselle added a final score with 7:51 remaining in the fourth quarter when Sage Smothers scored on a three-yard run to cap off an eight-play, 47-yard drive. 

“It was good to get a win on homecoming,” said Moore. “Hopefully this is the first of many victories on homecoming.” 

The Tigers finished the game with 400 yards of total offense. They ran for 266 yards and passed for 134 yards. 

Moore ran for 108 yards, tallying two touchdowns on seven carries to lead the Tigers rushing attack. R. Fletcher rushed for 63 yards and a touchdown on five carries, while Smothers added 56 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Backup quarterback Jack Smith ran three times for 39 yards. 

“We ran the ball better tonight than we have in any other game this season,” said Moore. “Mookie and Ri had several big runs that they haven’t had this season.” 

Blackwood finished the game 13 of 22 for 134 yards and a touchdown. He completed passes to seven different receivers, including Gray, who had three catches for 35 yards and a score. 

The Hartselle defense held Columbia to 62 total yards. The Eagles picked up 85 yards on their final two drives. 

Hartselle (3-2, 2-1) will travel to Russellville (4-0) this Friday night. The Golden Tigers are coming off a 27-18 win over Lawrence County. 

“Russellville is really good defensively, and they are extremely well-coached,” said Moore. “I have some experience with them as we played them the last two years at Jasper. It should be a good ballgame.”