Early miscues doom Tigers in loss to rival Decatur
A blocked punt recovered by Decatur in the end zone for a touchdown was just too much for the Tigers to overcome, however.
Decatur scored 17 points off Hartselle turnovers on the way to a 20-14 non-region win in front of a capacity crowd at Ogle Stadium.
But the Red Raiders had to weather a late attack from Hartselle that ended with an interception on the final play of the game.
The loss was the first for the Tigers, who came into the game ranked third in the state in Class 5A.
Decatur’s Larry Goode blocked a Hayden Dye punt and Shaquille Wallace recovered the loose ball in the end zone to give the Red Raiders a commanding 20-0 advantage with 5:56 remaining in the half.
“We really overcame the two turnovers,” Godsey said. “The block killed us and that was the bottom line. We kind of survived the turnovers even though they got points, but the blocked punt really hurt.
Decatur has a really good football team, but if we protect that punt, its 14-13.
Hartselle, playing without all-state tailback Malcolm Fossett, was held to negative yardage rushing in the game. Fossett was injured in the Tigers’ win over Walker and did not dress for the Decatur game.
Fossett leads the Tigers with eight touchdowns in four games and the Tigers managed just 49 yards on the ground in the senior’s absence.
“They were just better than us up front defensively,” Godsey said. “We were better up front defensively than they were.
“We had matchup issues (offensively), but we knew that coming in here. I was very proud of those guys up front. They could have folded up the tent and they didn’t do it. They just battled them all night long.”
Decatur improved to 5-0 with the victory. It was the Red Raiders’ 16th win in the series in the last 21 years.
“This game was just a defensive battle,” said Decatur head coach Jere Adcock. “Our kids played well, but we just couldn’t seem to get much going offensively against Hartselle’s defense.”
The Red Raiders had just 49 yards rushing against Hartselle’s defense. Decatur finished the night with 126 yards of total offense.
Hartselle scored two second half touchdowns to climb back in the game before a late drive ended with a interception.
The Tigers cut into the lead with their first touchdown in the second quarter following the blocked punt. Will Lang hit Jackson Reeves with a 65-yard scoring strike to help the Tigers get the game back to a two-possession game.
Hartselle looked ready to cut into the lead even further when Dax Gillespie recovered a Decatur fumble, but the Red Raiders came up with a goal line stand to end the threat.
With a first-and-goal at the Decatur 3-yard line, Hartselle was stopped short of the end zone four straight times.
“We had a chance and they made the plays and we didn’t,” Godsey said. “It was just that simple.
“We had several really good opportunities to make some things happen and we just didn’t do it. Decatur just made more plays than we did.”
Lang threw his second touchdown pass of the night late in the fourth quarter to keep the Tigers’ hopes alive. Will Tiffin took the pass into the end zone from 10 yards out to trim the Decatur lead to 20-14.
Lang has thrown eight touchdown passes this season with just one interception. He has completed 68 percent of his pass attempts.
Hartselle’s Jake Kimbrell gave the Tigers one last chance when he recovered a fumble with 2:28 remaining in the game. But a Hunter Netherton interception ended the threat.
“We played hard,” Godsey said. “I was very proud of how hard our kids played, especially late. We’ve just got to play better.
“I wish we could have executed better but give Decatur some credit for that. We had our chances, we had our shots. We just didn’t convert.”
Hartselle will return to action Friday at home against West Point.