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Athens ruins Hartselle's dream

By Staff
Tipped pass in last 2 minutes proves the different in Tigers' 23-13 loss
Justin Schuver, Hartselle Enquirer
Just when it looked like the Tigers would celebrate a win for the 12th time this year, Athens’ Dewon Tisdale snatched away both the ball and Hartselle’s dreams.
With 1:54 left and Hartselle leading 13-10, Tisdale caught a pass from quarterback Rob Ezell that deflected off both a Hartselle defender and Athens’ Vincent Azzarello. Tisdale grabbed the tipped pass and took it into the end zone to score a 42-yard touchdown to give the Golden Eagles their first lead of the game.
Athens would later add an insurance touchdown as the Golden Eagles took a 23-13 win at J.P. Cain Stadium in the Class 5A state quarterfinals Friday night.
Athens improved to 10-3 and moved on to face J.O. Johnson in the state semifinals this Friday. Johnson also picked up a road victory over a higher-ranked Region 8 opponent, defeating Russellville 19-14.
During the regular season, Hartselle defeated Athens 35-31 on the road, but this time it was the Golden Eagles who emerged as the victorious road warriors.
Following Tisdale’s touchdown, Hartselle turned the ball over on its first play from scrimmage. Athens took over on the Tiger 36-yard line but Hartselle forced the Golden Eagles into a fourth-and-2 situation with 1:23 remaining. Athens’ Ferrell Williams not only converted the fourth down, but he also scored on the play to put the game out of reach for Hartselle.
It was a tough ending for the Tigers in a game that began with Hartselle grabbing momentum early. Hartselle broke onto the scoreboard in the first quarter on a 36-yard touchdown run by Marquez Jones, his 14th score of the season.
The Tigers increased their lead to 10-0 on a 33-yard field goal by Ray Canafax with 5:46 left in the second quarter. That drive included a costly illegal formation penalty against Hartselle that wiped out a 14-yard Jones run to the Athens 2. Instead, the ball was moved back to the 21-yard line and the Tigers stalled and settled for the field goal.
Hartselle appeared to have Athens bottled up on the next drive, forcing the Golden Eagles into a fourth-and-3 situation. But Ezell, who also handles the punting duties for Athens, converted with a 42-yard pass to Tisdale on a punt fake. The play advanced the Golden Eagles to the Hartselle 9, but the Tigers’ defense stood strong and forced Athens’ drive to stall before Matt Jackson hit a 40-yard field goal with 1:39 left in the first half.
Hartselle took a 10-3 lead into halftime and increased its margin with another Canafax field goal in the third quarter, this one from 22 yards out.
Athens answered on the following drive, with Ezell hooking up for a 14-yard touchdown to Jacquez Pride that brought the Golden Eagles to within three with 2:57 left in the third quarter.
The score remained 13-10 until Tisdale’s catch gave the Golden Eagles their first lead. It was the first time this season Hartselle lost a game it led at halftime.
The loss ended Hartselle’s season at 11-2, the first time since 2002 that the Tigers have won 11 or more games and only the fourth time in the school’s 90-year history. It unfortunately also closed the book on the high school careers of Hartselle’s 21-member senior class.
Those seniors are Caleb Blanton, Jake Bradford, Wes Chenault, Travis Clemons, Tyler Young, Quinn Dunlap, Josh Harris, Logan Lemmond, Jordan Garrison, Ray Canafax, Trey Stephenson, Steven Paulos, Jordan Lee, Dusty Schofield, Daniel Filiatrault, Sean Sinclair, Jake Watkins, Carter Montgomery, Matt Zartuche, Jahmeel Moore and Daniel Sparkman.

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