Tigers’ season comes to a close with loss to Mountain Brook

Ri Fletcher looks for a running lane in the Tigers’ playoff game at Mountain Brook. Enquirer photo by Jim Meadows
Ri Fletcher looks for a running lane in the Tigers’ playoff game at Mountain Brook. Enquirer photo by Jim Meadows

MOUNTAIN BROOK - The Hartselle Tigers’ 2022 season came to a close with a 49-30 loss on the road at Mountain Brook this past Friday.

The Tigers’ magical run ends with a 12-1 record that will remain in the memory of Hartselle football fans for years to come.

“This is not how we wanted to end the season,” Hartselle coach Bryan Moore said. “Our goal is to bring a state championship home to Hartselle.

The Tigers were led by a group of seniors who finished with a career record of 33-13. Following a freshman season mark of 4-7, the group complied a 29-6 mark over the next three seasons, including 22-2 in their junior and senior seasons.

They were led by Jack Smith at quarterback, the unquestioned leader of this year’s team. He waited his turn and became a first-time starter this season. He finished with more than 2,200 yards passing, more than 500 yards rushing and a combined 30 touchdowns.

Joining Smith were Izayah Fletcher and Eli Tidwell at wide receiver. Both players were quiet and unassuming off the field, but when the lights came on, they developed into one of the top receiving duos in Alabama high school football. Tidwell led the team in receiving yards with 853, but Fletcher was right behind him with 839. They combined for 106 receptions and 15 touchdowns.

The offensive line was led by seniors Tyde Witt, Andrew Crittenden, Reid Ellis and Ryan Aymett. Witt and Crittenden have started since they were sophomores. Ellis and Aymett came into starting roles in their junior and senior seasons.

Zeke McHan was a three-year starter at H-back for Hartselle. He was called on to block the majority of the time he was on the field, but he did occasion, have his name called in the passing game.

On the defensive side of the ball, seniors led the defensive line and linebacker positions.

Brothers Dalton Green and Dylan Green developed into leaders on the defensive line. Dalton was a three-year starter, while Dylan saw action in his three years on the varsity. He led the team with 22 tackles for loss this season and finished with 53 total tackles. Dylan had 41 tackles, including six for loss. Joining them was Isaac Nicholson, who was a first-year starter in his senior campaign. He finished with 40 tackles with 14 for loss.

Linebackers Treyce Oden, a two-year starter, and Kaden Worley helped lead a three-headed monster at the linebacking position. Worley finished with 97 tackles with 10 for loss, while Oden had 78 tackles with 16 for loss.

Walker Hoyle and Payton Roberts were the only senior starters in the defensive backfield. Hoyle played both cornerback and rover during his time at Hartselle. He finished with 92 tackles and one interception this season.

Roberts is the comeback player of the year following a knee injury in the first game of his junior season at Austin. He battled back to become a starter and finished with 68 tackles with six for loss this season.

Crawford Lang was a three-year starter on special teams. He had a career-long 51-yard field goal as a junior and was consistent throughout his career. He battled through leg issues during the first part of his junior year, but that only made him a better kicker for the rest of his career. This season he became a weapon on kickoffs with 34 touchbacks in 66 attempts.

The loss to Mountain Brook will not define who these seniors are as a team. But, they helped lay a foundation that future Tigers can look back on and say these are the ones who led the way.

Smith finished 24-of-35 for 255 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 35 yards on 11 carries.

Ri Fletcher had 59 yards rushing and a touchdown on 12 carries, along with 38 yards receiving and a touchdown on five receptions.

Tidwell finished with 147 yards receiving and two touchdowns on 10 receptions, while Izayah Fletcher had eight catches for 60 yards.

These Tigers fell behind by the largest deficit they faced this season in the first half at 28-7 and then trailed 42-17 heading into the fourth quarter.

“We are not finished. We are going to find a way to get past this point,” Moore said. “It was a tremendous showing by Hartselle fans as we packed our stands an hour and a half before kickoff. We are not finished, as this is only the beginning.”