Hartselle suffers tough opening loss to Austin
Justin Schuver, Hartselle Enquirer
Austin defeated Hartselle 14-7 at J.P. Cain Stadium last Thursday evening to give the Black Bears their first win over the Tigers since 2003. It was also Hartselle's first regular season loss at home since falling 13-10 to Athens in the seventh game of the 2005 season.
"It may be exactly what we need," Hartselle coach Bob Godsey said. "I think we've been working hard and had a great camp and practice, but we just didn't play very well tonight. And the credit for that goes to Austin and coach (David) Norwood. We got out-coached and out-played.
"Now we'll get to see what we're made of. We'll pass this test and when it's all said and done we're going to have a good football team."
Austin's first drive of the game stalled out when Manquez Jones intercepted a Justin Jones pass and returned it to the Hartselle 10-yard line. That turnover set up Hartselle's lone scoring drive, a drive that lasted nearly 7 minutes and spanned 16 plays.
Hartselle took an initial 7-0 lead with 10:45 left in the second quarter when Marquez Jones scored on a 6-yard run around the left side. Tyler Bennich added the extra point.
Austin had a chance to tie the game about halfway through the quarter but botched the snap on a 23-yard field goal attempt and turned the ball over on downs. The Black Bears got another chance late in the first half and capitalized this time when Jones found T.T. Mallard open on a short out pattern and Mallard did the rest, racing down the right sideline for a 53-yard touchdown with 40.6 seconds left.
"Anytime you can score going into the half, you feel like there's a momentum shift, and that's pretty much the way we felt," Norwood said.
Austin's strong first-half finish continued into the second half as the Black Bears drove down to the Hartselle 15-yard line. The drive stalled when Marquez Jones knocked away a fourth-and-5 pass intended for Mallard. But the Tigers went three-and-out and punted the ball back to Austin, with the Black Bears starting in good field position at their own 42-yard line.
Austin strung together a nine-play drive to take the lead for the first time. Jones' 12-yard touchdown run came with 2:42 left in the third quarter.
Hartselle responded with a drive of its own, moving the ball from its own 39-yard line to the Austin 8 before turning it over on downs.
"We had one good drive in the first half and then we just shot ourselves in the foot the rest of the night," Godsey said. "We talked about it in the locker room after the game, we went down the line (of players) and everybody had one or two plays they could have made to make a difference, and we didn't get it done."
The Tigers did not go quietly, however. Austin drove down to the Hartselle 5 and appeared to hit a field goal with 1:01 left in the game. The kick was waved off following a Black Bears penalty, and Austin's second attempt was blocked.
The Tigers took over at the Hartselle 4 with no timeouts remaining, running several quick plays and getting out of bounds to try and conserve the clock. Luke Bole's pass to Tony Weaver moved the Tigers to the Hartselle 45 with 9.7 seconds remaining.
On the next play, Bole could not find an open receiver and tried to scramble before attempting a desperation lateral as time expired.
With the victory, Austin's players went over to thank the fans on their sideline and coach Norwood got the chance to defeat his alma mater for the first time in his four-year career at Austin. Norwood played for Hartselle coach Don Woods in the early 1980s.
"It's nice, but you know, I want to win them all," he said. "There's a lot of good people who live in this town – a lot of my very best friends still live here. And I enjoy coming down here and playing, but the bottom line is it was the next (game on the schedule), and that's why it was a big win."
Although the loss stung, Hartselle was able to take solace in the fact it was a non-region game that has no bearings on playoff eligibility or position.
"We can still accomplish everything we want to accomplish," Godsey said. "We'll go back to work and see if we can't make more plays than Decatur next week."