Tigers drop season opener to Austin 31-7

Hartselle entered Friday night’s game versus Austin with a handful of players who had playing experience in a varsity contest. The lack of experience showed in the Tigers’ 31-7 loss to the 7A Black Bears. 

“Our youth and inexperience played a major role in the game,” said Hartselle Coach Bryan Moore. “We have to grow and execute better moving forward.” 

Austin got on the board first with a 23-yard touchdown run by Javon Jackson. With 6:35 left in the first quarter, the Black Bears took a 7-0 lead. 

After punting the ball to Austin on their next possession, the Tigers’ Traece Oden batted a Quincy Crittenden pass that was hauled in by Dalton Green for the first turnover of the game, giving Hartselle the ball at the Austin 13-yard line. 

The Tigers couldn’t get anything going on the possession. They turned the ball over when quarterback Parker Sawyer’s pass was intercepted by Austin’s Eddie Mitchell. 

The Black Bears started their next possession at the six-yard line and marched 94 yards in seven plays, capped off by a 46-yard touchdown pass from Crittenden to Jackson as time ended in the first quarter. The score gave Austin a 14-0 lead. 

Austin extended that lead to 17-0 on a Noah Flood 27-yard field goal with 7:08 left in the second quarter. 

The Tigers put together their best drive of the half on their next possession. After being held with a first down, the Tigers picked up two on the drive that started from their own 25-yard line. Sawyer connected with Trent Wright for a 12-yard completion to give the Tigers their first first-down of the game.  

Three plays later, Sawyer hit Izayah Fletcher with a 24-yard pass to the Austin 34-yard line. The Tigers moved the ball to the 25-yard line on runs by Kaleb Moore. On fourth down, Hartselle’s Crawford Lang missed a 42-yard field goal with 3:35 left. 

Austin extended the lead to 31-0 after touchdowns on the Black Bears’ first two possessions of the second half – the score on a 6-yard Tre Shackelford touchdown reception, followed by a 13-yard Winston Lyle touchdown reception. 

Hartselle would get on the scoreboard with 1:33 left in the game when Sawyer connected with freshman running back Ri Fletcher on a 46-yard touchdown pass down the sideline.  

The scoring drive was their best drive of the night. They marched 86 yards for the score. Sawyer completed four passes for 76 yards and the score. 

Kelvin Morris, a senior defensive lineman, picked up two sacks for the Tigers. 

My message to our coaches and team is that we just have to keep improving each week,” said Moore. “We will not let one game ruin our season. 

Hartselle will host Mae Jemison Friday night. The Jaguars are coming off a 22-6 loss to Hazel Green to open the season.