Coffey burns Tigers
Decatur running back's big plays prove the difference in Hartselle's 31-14 loss
Justin Schuver, Hartselle Enquirer
DECATUR – Friday night at Ogle Stadium, it seemed Decatur always had an answer for Hartselle. The answer was junior running back Chris Coffey.
Coffey finished with 194 rushing yards and scored three touchdowns, including a back-breaking 80-yard kickoff return and a 70-yard run in the fourth quarter, to help pace Decatur to a 31-14 win.
"We left our defense out there way too long at times and Decatur really responded when we started to get tired," Hartselle coach Bob Godsey said.
Decatur held a 14-0 lead after three quarters before Hartselle's offense got in gear when quarterback Luke Bole scored on a 7-yard run with 10:35 remaining in the game. Tyler Bennich kicked the extra point to cut the Red Raiders' lead in half.
On the following play, Coffey muffed the initial catch of Bennich's kickoff, but picked up the ball at the Decatur 20 and outraced everyone to the end zone as the Red Raiders moved back ahead 21-7.
The Tigers would not give up, however, putting together an eight-play, 74-yard scoring drive that was capped off by Tony Weaver's 32-yard touchdown catch with 7:14 remaining. Once again, Coffey had an answer.
On Decatur's first play of the ensuing drive, Coffey took the handoff and raced 70 yards for his third touchdown of the day.
"We were so down on the sideline after that one," said Weaver, a senior who finished with a team-high 90 yards on seven catches. "It was like a knife, like a final stab. It really hurt."
Michael Schuster added a 40-yard field goal to close out the scoring for Decatur (1-1, 1-0 in Region 8).
"We needed this win badly," Decatur coach Jere Adcock said. "We were embarrassed by the way we played last week (in a 34-14 loss to Huntsville) and we played much harder against a well-coached Hartselle team this week."
Turnovers proved a stinging point for Hartselle (0-2, 0-1) in the loss, as the Tigers fumbled once and were intercepted twice. The fumble might have been the worst of all.
It came early in the first quarter, shortly after Bole completed a short pass in the flat to Marquez Jones, who raced from the Hartselle 39 before being tackled out of bounds at the Decatur 1. Facing first-and-goal from the 1, Hartselle was stopped on its first two downs and fumbled on the next play.
Decatur's sophomore quarterback Ben Neill came into the game for the first time, replacing starter Riley Adcock, and made an instant impact with a 9-yard run to get Decatur a little more field position to breathe. Fifteen plays later, Neill found Brooks Johnson open for a 5-yard touchdown and the Red Raiders took a 7-0 lead.
"We'd get the offense going at times and then we'd have some breakdowns," Godsey said. "We just haven't put it all together yet, and with the schedule that we play if you don't put it together you won't win."
Decatur increased its lead to 14-0 when Coffey scored his first touchdown of the game on a 22-yard run with 3:32 left in the third quarter. Coffey's night was a far cry from his performance last season, when he fumbled four times in a 17-7 win for Hartselle.
Senior running back Montrell Murphy had a strong performance for Hartselle, finishing with 166 yards on 27 carries. Bole was 14-of-24 for 200 yards with two interceptions and one touchdown.
Hartselle hosts Russellville (2-0) this Friday at 7 p.m. at J.P. Cain Stadium.
"We've got to keep fighting and not give up," Weaver said. "We've got a long road ahead of us now and a lot of work to do, but we can't quit."