Hartselle traveled to Russellville for a matchup against longtime rival the Golden Tigers and came away with a 38-14 victory.
“This was our best win of the season for us thus far,” said Hartselle coach Bryan Moore. “Russellville is an outstanding football team, and for us to come here and reel off 38 straight points to win is big for us.”
The Tigers faced a daunting task in trying to score on the Russellville defense, which had given up a total of 18 points in their first four games of the season.
The Golden Tigers took control of the game on their opening drive, marching 70 yards to the Hartselle 1-yard line before turning it over on downs.
Russellville would get on the board first when Caleb Matthews scored on a 22-yard run with 3:37 left in the first quarter. The run capped a 64-yard drive. Matthews finished the drive with 37 yards on the ground.
Hartselle put together an 82-yard drive to move inside the red zone as time expired in the first quarter. However, a JT Blackwood pass intended for Izayah Fletcher was intercepted by Russellville’s Lashon Williams on the first play of the second quarter.
Late in the first half, the Tigers began a drive at midfield but after a bobbled snap and two penalties found themselves losing 30 yards and having to punt from their 20-yard line.
Russellville’s TJ King returned the Crawford Land punt 40 yards to give the Golden Tigers excellent field position at the Tigers’ 19-yard line.
Matthews would score three plays later on an eight-yard run to put Russellville up 14-0 with 1:23 to go before halftime.
The Tigers, who were dominated through most of the first half, had one final chance before halftime. Blackwood connected with Trent Wright for a 25-yard pass to move the Tigers to the Russellville 45. A Russellville penalty on the pass play moved the ball to the 30-yard line. Following a pass interference penalty, Hartselle was at the Russellville 15-yard line with less than 25 seconds to go in the half. On the next play, Blackwood hit Coleman Mizell with a pass that he took 15 yards down the Hartselle sideline before powering his way into the endzone for a Tiger touchdown.
“This score was critical, as it let us get in the game before halftime,” said Moore.
Hartselle opened the second half with a 70-yard scoring drive to tie the game at 14-14 with 9:17 to go in the third. It was the Tigers’ passing game that moved the ball on the Russellville defense, but it was Mookie Moore who scored on a 10-yard run to put the ball in the end zone.
Hartselle took their first lead of the game with 49 seconds left in the third quarter when Parker Sawyer scored on a seven-yard run down the Russellville sideline to make it 21-14.
The Tigers extended their lead to 28-14 with 9:32 to go in the fourth quarter. Blackwood connected with Wright on an 85-yard touchdown catch–and–run.
“JT led me with a great ball that gave me the chance to break it for a touchdown,” said Wright.
On Russellville’s next possession, Hartselle’s Armahden Dunigan intercepted a Golden Tiger pass and returned it 40 yards for a score to put the Tigers up 35-14 with 8:41 left in the fourth.
Lang capped the scoring for Hartselle when he made a 37-yard field goal with 6:06 left in the game to put the Tigers up 38-14.
The Hartselle defense dominated the second half, holding Russellville to 31 total yards.
“As the game went on, our speed and quickness allowed us to correct mistakes made in the first half,” said Moore.
Blackwood finished the game with 261 yards passing and two touchdowns on 14 of 25 passing. Sawyer was six of nine for 79 yards. Wright had five receptions for 180 yards and a touchdown. I. Fletcher had seven receptions for 84 yards.
“Our passing game was really good tonight,” said Moore. “I don’t know where our football team would be without Trent Wright. He opens up a lot of things for our offense.”
The Tiger offense finished with 430 total yards – 340 yards passing and 90 yards rushing.
Wright, who is playing football for the first time since his freshman year, said the team has grown tougher both mentally and physically, and that has allowed them to answer every challenge that has been presented thus far.
Hartselle (4-2, 2-1) will jump back into region play at Athens Friday night.