Not this year
Tigers fall to 3-2 with 21-6 loss to No. 10 Red Raiders
Justin Schuver, Hartselle Enquirer
That Decatur city championship will have to wait another year.
The Tigers had hoped to become the first Hartselle team since 1985 to beat both Decatur and Austin in the same season, but the No. 10 Red Raiders (5-0) had other plans as they defeated Hartselle (3-2) at J.P. Cain Stadium Friday by the score of 21-6.
"It's about execution," Hartselle coach Bob Godsey said. "We didn't execute well at times and they had something to do with that. We'll keep firing away and we'll be okay. All's not lost. To be 3-2 after the first five games we had, we're going to be okay."
The Tigers held strong through most of the game, and were down only 7-0 at the half.
But the No. 10 Red Raiders showed why they are undefeated in Class 6A this season, keeping Hartselle's offense from developing any real rhythm and taking advantage of the Tigers' mistakes. Hartselle quarterback Wes Chenault was intercepted near the end of the third quarter on the Tigers' 15-yard line, and Decatur was able to convert the interception – Hartselle's only turnover of the game – into seven points less than three minutes later.
"They overwhelmed us a little bit up front and that's the way it goes," Godsey said. "We'll keep working. Against a team like that you can't get into third-and-long and second-and-long; you're not going to win that battle many times. They just did a good job of getting us into that position. It's the same with us, we try to get people into third-and-long and second-and long, and when we do we generally have some good success."
Decatur managed a balanced offensive attack against a Hartselle team that before Friday had not allowed any of its opponents to rush for more than 100 yards.
Red Raider running back Steve Shackelford had 101 yards on 23 carries and a touchdown, and fullback William Cross also had a productive game with 31 yards on five carries and a touchdown.
Jesse Perrin, who converted to quarterback after playing tight end last season, finished the night 12-of-18 passing for 138 yards and a touchdown. He completed passes to seven different receivers.
"That's about what we expected; we knew they were very good, especially up front and on defense," Godsey said. "I thought Jesse Perrin played excellent; he made all the plays you need a quarterback to make in order to win games. I thought he made a bunch of plays for them."
Decatur wasn't the only team who showed offensive balance, however, as Hartselle also put together one of its most impressive passing performances to date. Chenault, whose previous high was 99 yards, finished the game with 124 yards through the air on 18-of-27 passing. He scored the lone touchdown for Hartselle – a 7-yard pass to T.J. Long with 43 seconds remaining in the game.
The Tigers' running game continued to shine as well, with sophomore Montrel Murphy leading the team with 74 yards on 15 carries.
Hartselle fell to 3-2 at the halfway point of the season, a year that has seen the Tigers take on two 6A opponents and the No. 2 team in Class 5A. All things considered, Godsey is relatively happy with the way his young team has responded to its difficult schedule, which stands to get much easier in the second half.
"Once again, we could play weaker people in this non-region game, but we're not going to do that," Godsey said. "We took our lumps tonight, but I think we probably learned more from that if we had played somebody and won 42-0 or something like that. I think you get better by playing good competition. It has always be beneficial down the road, and I don't think it will be any different this year."
Decatur scored the first touchdown of the game with 42 seconds left in the first quarter, when Shackelford ran the ball in from six yards out. The Red Raiders' final touchdown came with 7:30 left in the game on a 2-yard carry by Cross.
Hartselle's scoring drive, while it might not have made much impact on the final score, was still an impressive display. The Tigers started the drive on their own 45-yard line with 2:41 left on the clock and used 11 plays to move down the field to the endzone. Chenault was 9-of-10 passing on the drive that also included a 2-yard run by Murphy.
Hartselle celebrates homecoming Friday against region opponent Muscle Shoals.