Slow start dooms Tigers in 19-7 loss to Athens

For the second consecutive week, Hartselle fell behind by two scores. This week, however, the Tigers couldn’t come from behind, and Athens defeated Hartselle 19-7. 

The Golden Eagles’ rushing game dominated the night. Athens ran the ball 75 times for 280 yards to control the time of possession. 

The Eagles scored on their first two possessions of the game – an 80-yard drive to open the game and a 98-yard drive that used almost six minutes of the clock – to take a 12-0 lead. 

The Tigers had four first-half possessions and couldn’t get anything going. Their best drive of the half came late in the second. Parker Sawyer completed three passes for 49 yards to move Hartselle into scoring position with less than 10 seconds left in the first, but Crawford Lang’s 38-yard field goal missed wide right as time expired. 

Athens capitalized on a Hartselle turnover to start the second half. The Tigers fumbled on the opening play, and the Golden Eagles recovered the ball at the Tigers’ 16-yard line. Athens scored eight plays later, with Jaylen Gilbert scoring his second touchdown of the game to extend the Athens lead to 19-0. 

Hartselle answered with a 10-play, 62-yard touchdown drive to cut the lead to 19-7. Mookie Moore scored from a yard out. The highlight of the drive was a 30-yard Sawyer pass to Izayah Fletcher. 

The Athens defense held the Tigers to 130 total yards: 87 passing and 43 rushing. 

Sawyer finished the game with 85 yards passing and 26 yards rushing, while Fletcher had four receptions for 70 yards. 

“We played about as bad as we could have. We played hard but didn’t play well,” said Hartselle head coach Bryan Moore. “We have plenty to work on and improve before the game with Muscle Shoals.” 

Hartselle (4-3, 2-2) will welcome Muscle Shoals (5-1, 4-0) to JP Cain Stadium for the Tigers’ final home game of the season Friday night.