Tigers beat rival, claim region title
His interception at the goal line with 6:23 left in the game helped preserve the Tigers’ 30-27 victory that secured the Class 5A, Region 6 championship after Cullman rallied from a 16-0 deficit in the first half.
And none of it surprised Hartselle head coach Bob Godsey, who has won four of his six meetings with Cullman since 2003.
“That’s exactly the way I would have scripted this game,” Godsey said. “I knew this game was going to be a dogfight. I just knew it would be. It’s not supposed to be easy.”
Hartselle improved to 7-0 in the region. The Tigers head into a Thursday night game against Austin on the road with an 8-1 mark.
Cullman dropped to 5-2 in the region and 6-3 overall. The Bearcats finished third in the region standings behind Hartselle and Walker.
“I thought it was two really good football teams who played as hard as they could,” Godsey said. “We were fortunate to come out on top. We found a way to win the game. We found a way to win a championship. That’s just what you do. They just found a way to get it done.”
The region title was the third straight for Hartselle and the first since moving to Region 6 this season.
The win means Hartselle will open the playoffs at home against Pinson Valley on Nov. 5.
Malcolm Fossett rushed for 243 yards and three touchdowns on 32 carries in his biggest game since being injured against Walker in the fourth week of the season.
“I’m very, very proud of our offensive line,” Godsey said. “They took the game over with more than six minutes left in the game and they took control.”
Fossett is just 202 yards from reaching the 1,000-yard plateau for the second straight season. He now has 798 yards on 103 attempts – an average of 7.7 yards per carry.
“The difference between finishing first and third in this region is huge,” Fossett said. “This game means a lot. I felt like I could get the job done and the offensive line did a great job all night. They just did a great job.”
After missing two games and playing sparingly the past two weeks, Fossett is still working to get back into game shape. But he had enough gas to spark the Tigers’ offense.
Malcolm just put us on his back and carried us,” Godsey said. “He got a little tired, he got a little winded. Well, he missed two ballgames and he’s been getting about 10 carries a game. “When we put that ball in his hands (against Cullman) he ran the stew out of it.”
Hartselle scored 16 points in the first quarter and looked set to roll to an easy win over the Bearcats at J.P. Cain Stadium.
The Tigers needed just 18 seconds to stun Cullman when Malcolm Fossett took the first play of the game 63 yards for a touchdown.
Hartselle added another score just two minutes later when Terry Wiggins fell on a bad snap on a punt attempt in the end zone for another touchdown.
Cullman had a chance to trim the lead back when Wesley Hendrix caught a pass from running back Ben Moore and streaked toward the end zone.
But Gillespie tracked down Hendrix and stripped him of the ball and fell on it for a touchback.
Hartselle added a 19-yard field goal by Gavin Marsh late in the opening quarter to stretch the lead to 16-0.
Hendrix did get his touchdown late in the first quarter when he went 73 yards to cut the Tigers’ lead to 16-6.
Cullman’s two-point conversion pass was blocked by Blair Sittason.
Fossett scored again on a 5-yard run in the second quarter.
Cullman running back Ben Moore scored three touchdowns in the second half as the Bearcats stole the lead from top-ranked Hartselle.
After touchdown runs of 64 and 10 yards, Moore scored on a 5-yard run in the third quarter to put the Bearcats in front 27-23.
“They threw every thing they had at us,” Godsey said. “A lot of people might ask what happened to the defense, but nothing happened to the defense. They got a big stop right before the end of the first half and they got one right there at the end of the game.
Moore’s go-ahead touchdown came after Cullman’s defense stopped Hartselle on downs at the Bearcats’ 17-yard line with 3:46 remaining in the third.
Moore finished the night with 236 yards rushing on 33 carries.
Fossett added a 1-yard touchdown run to put the Tigers back in front 30-27 with 9:50 remaining in the game.
“We did the kind of things you have to do to be a championship team,” Godsey said. “When Cullman took the lead, we answered right back with a big drive.”
Cullman drove deep into Hartselle territory before Gillespie came up with the interception to stop the Bearcats’ drive.
Lang threw a first-down pass to Chance Partlow and Fossett ran for two more first downs on Hartselle’s next possession to preserve the win.
“That final drive was huge for us,” Godsey said.