Stuck in the mud
Hartselle shut out for 1st time since 2003, falls to Russellville 14-0
Justin Schuver, Hartselle Enquirer
By the end of Friday night's game against Hartselle, the Golden Tigers' uniforms might have been dirty but their record remained unblemished.
Russellville (3-0, 2-0 in Region 8) increased its regular season winning streak to 44 games with a 14-0 win at Hartselle's J.P. Cain Stadium Friday night. Hartselle, who advanced to the Class 5A quarterfinals last season, fell to 0-3 for the first time in coach Bob Godsey's five-year career with the Tigers.
It was also the first time Hartselle has been shut out by an opponent since a 23-0 loss to Decatur in 2003.
"Nobody wants to be where we're at right now," Godsey said. "But we are what we are and we've got to keep working. I know that this team will keep fighting, keep pressing, keep going."
A strong defensive effort kept Hartselle in the game, before a special teams miscue gave Russellville the short field it needed to put its only touchdown on the board.
The score was 6-0 after three quarters when Kory Suggs blocked a punt to give Russellville the ball on the Hartselle 23-yard line with 11:00 left.
Five plays later, Russellville quarterback Cory Trapp scored on a 6-yard touchdown run and Michael Abernathy ran in the two-point conversion.
"We felt good in that game, for most of the game we were only a score away from taking the lead," Godsey said. "I thought we played our best game of the year on defense, and now we've got to equal that on offense."
Russellville's only other points of the game came on first-half field goals from Josh Carpenter. Carpenter nailed a 28-yard kick in the first quarter and a 39-yard kick in the second quarter.
The Golden Tigers were successful in shutting down Hartselle's usually productive running game. The Tigers were held to just 54 yards rushing on 26 plays.
"Coming in that's what we were really concerned about was stopping the run," said first-year Russellville coach Doug Goodwin. "We knew if we could stop the run we'd have a good chance to win and that's the way it worked out."
Russellville dominated time of possession in the first half, but only led by six points at halftime. Hartselle ran just 11 offensive plays in the first half.
Both teams had their share of breaks but could not capitalize.
With 1:56 left in the third quarter, Hartselle's Marquez Jones fumbled and it was recovered by Russellville's Caleb Mitchell, who returned the ball 57 yards to the Hartselle 8.
Three plays later, Russellville fumbled on the 10-yard line to give the ball right back to the Tigers.
Then later in the fourth quarter, Hartselle squandered a golden opportunity to put points on the board. A 78-yard pass play from Hartselle's Luke Bole to Tony Weaver brought the Tigers down to the Russellville 12 midway through the quarter.
Hartselle moved the ball and had a second-and-goal situation from the Russellville 1 but Bole could not hold onto the snap and the Tigers were backed up to the 12-yard line. Hartselle's drive stalled when Bole overthrew Jones on fourth down.
"I don't know what you'd call it, but that's two weeks in a row now that we've been down near the goal line and it's turned into disaster," said Godsey, whose team also fumbled on the 1-yard line against Decatur.
After Friday's loss, Hartselle has already surpassed its total number of losses from 2006, when the Tigers finished with a record of 11-2. Senior linebacker Michael Reed knows it will be hard to keep the team's confidence high, but said he and other seniors are up to the challenge of leading the Tigers through their rough start.
"We know it's going to be tough, but it's going to come down to having heart," Reed said. "I think our defense did a really good job tonight; we improved a lot from the Decatur game. We've got a lot of young guys playing on defense and they're really stepping up."
Hartselle travels to Muscle Shoals (2-1, 1-1) Friday night with kickoff at 7 p.m.