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Tigers win final game of season but will miss playoffs

By Staff
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
Hartselle's Tigers closed out their regular season with a 23-13 victory over the Florence Falcons at J. P. Cain Stadium Friday night but it still wasn't good enough to get them in the 5A state playoffs. The Walker Vikings and the Cullman Bearcats took care of that with wins over Hueytown and Arab, respectively.
All three teams went into their 10th game with identical 4-3 records and tied for third place in region play; however, the Tigers trailed both teams in a tie-breaker points based on the number of games won by the opponents they defeated. The Tigers needed Walker to lose in order to make the playoffs.
The Tigers ended their season with a 6-4 overall record. Florence finished 5-5.
The Tigers trailed by a point 6-7, at halftime but bounced back with a sterling performance in the last two quarters to come away with a convincing win. Sophomore running back Montrel Murphy would not be denied. He scored touchdowns on runs of 73 and 22 yards and rushed for 280 yards on 37 carries. Junior kicker Ray Canafax also stood out for the Tigers. He booted three of four field goal attempts and converted two of two extra point attempts.
"I'm so proud of these guys," head coach Bob Godsey said. "A lot of teams would have cashed in their chips a long time ago had they faced the challenges this team has. But these guys have character. They never let up; they never gave up. "
"I can't say enough about our seniors," he added. "They have led by example all season. I hope our younger players will look to them as a good ample to follow in the future.
"Our goal coming in tonight was to win and finish the regular season with a 6-4 record. I'm proud of our players for doing that regardless of how the seeding for playoff spots in our region turns out.
Junior kicker Ray Canafax booted a 36-yard field goal with 7:47 left in the first period to give Hartselle a 3-0 lead. His kick came on Hartselle's first possession. It capped a 47-yard drive on nine plays.
Key plays in the drive were an 18-yard pass from freshman quarterback Luke Bole to senior wide receiver Chase Taylor and 5 and 8-yard runs by Murphy.
The Tigers extended their lead to 6-0 on a 42-yard field goal by Canafax. His kick came with 11:00 left in the first half and followed a 59-yard drive on 12 plays.
Sophomore quarterback Tony Weaver had a 20-yard run in the drive. Bole completed passes of 4, 8 and 10 yards.
The Falcons tied the score with 1:28 left in the second period on a 45-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Josh Pettey to junior wide receiver Joey Sharif. They went up 7-6 on an extra point conversion by Adam Garfrerick.
The Tigers missed an opportunity to regain the lead early in the third period when a 35-yard field goal attempt by Canafax was off the mark. His kick capped a 47-yard drive on 11 plays.
Florence scored its second and final touchdown on a pass interception and 50-yard runback by senior cornerback Willie Jackson.
The score came with 2:15 left in the third period. Garfrerick's extra point kick was no good and left the visitors with a 13-6 edge.
The Tigers bounced back in a hurry. On their next play from scrimmage Murphy broke through the middle of the Falcon defense and bolted 73 yards for a touchdown. Canafax booted the extra point to make to tie the game at 13-all.
On their next possession they marched from their own 46-yard line to Florence's 14-yard line on nine plays and capped the drive with a 20-yard Canafax field goal. The score came with 8:43 left in final period and made the score 16-13.
The Tigers scored again with 2:06 left in the game on a 22-yard run by Murphy.
His run capped a 44-yard drive in three plays. Canafax added the extra point to make the score 23-13.
Junior cornerback Quinn Dunlap set up the final scoring drive, intercepting a Falcon pass and returning it 14 yards.