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Tigers rough up Raiders

Hartselle never got its passing offense in gear against Decatur, but the Tigers never had to.

The Tigers racked up 281 yards on the ground as No. 3 Hartselle (5-0) defeated rival Decatur (2-3) 28-21 Friday night.

Blake Slayton is tackled by Decatur's Larry Goode. | Richard Hollingsworth

Coach Bob Godsey said he was impressed with his offensive line and how they took control of the game when they fell behind 21-14 in the third quarter.

“We just ran the ball well especially in the second half,” Godsey said. “On the go ahead touchdown, I was just impressed by the push that our offensive line had right there.”

What Godsey was talking about was the Tigers’ final touchdown of the night. On the Decatur 2-yard line, Blake Slayton walked into the end zone untouched and put Hartselle up 28-21 with 8:24 left in the game.

That play capped off a seven-play, 39-yard drive, all of which came on the ground. Slayton led the Tigers in the run game with 172 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns.

Both teams traded punts to start the game, and set up Decatur at its own 1-yard line. However, the Raiders got out of the hole with a 43-yard pass from Will Laughlin to Peyton Littrell, giving Decatur the ball at the midfield stripe.

Six plays later, Laughlin connected with B.J. Fossett for a 21-yard touchdown strike, completing the 11-play, 99-yard drive. Jackson Walraven added the extra point to make it 7-0 Decatur at the 3:24 mark of the first quarter.

Hartselle took advantage of Decatur pass interference penalty to score a touchdown. Deacon Aldridge connected with Charleston Williams for 31 of the Tigers 36 passing yards to move into Decatur territory.

Waid Miller tackles Decatur running back Rex Jarman. | Richard Hollingsworth

Aldridge finished the drive with an 8-yard quarterback keeper for the touchdown. Gavin Marsh added the extra point to tie the game with 28 seconds left in the first quarter.

After forcing a three-and-out, Hartselle quickly moved into scoring position. Slayton broke free for a 32-yard gain to get inside the 10-yard line. Then Aldridge connected with Masio Stover on a 4-yard touchdown, giving Hartselle a 14-7 lead at the 8:28 mark of the second quarter.

Hartselle appeared headed for the end zone again, but Decatur’s Devin Moore came up with the interception at the Decatur 4.

The Tigers then had another chance to score before the half, but Marsh’s 51-yard field goal was blocked with 1:05 left in the half.

That’s all the Raiders needed. Laughlin faked the end around and then connected with Bejaun Clack for a 40-yard touchdown with 9 seconds on the clock. The game was tied 14-14 at the break.

The Tigers’ second pick ended another good drive early in the third quarter. But after another exchange of punts, the Raiders would make a couple of plays to take the lead.

From the Decatur 43, Laughlin went back to pass and dropped the ball. He picked up the ball, somehow broke tackles in the backfield and sprinted down the Decatur sideline for a 37-yard gain.

A few plays later, Hartselle’s Jordan Orr appeared to recover a fumble at the 6-yard line. The referee ruled that the runner was down despite no official blowing a whistle. The ruling drew ire from Godsey and the Hartselle faithful.

Tyler Phillips tackles B.J. Fossett for a 10-yard loss in the fourth quarter against Decatur. | Richard Hollingsworth

That set up Josh Matthews’ 6-yard touchdown run, giving Decatur the lead at the 4:45 mark of the quarter.

That’s when Hartselle ditched the passing game and pound the football. The Tigers pounded it for 65 yards on 10 plays to score. Slayton capped off the drive with a 17-yard run, which put him over the 150-yard mark. Hartselle tied the game with 16 seconds left in the third quarter.

The defense then clamped down on Decatur, pushing the Raiders back from the 30 to the 7 during the next series, thanks in part to a Casey Goodwin sack. That gave Hartselle a short field to take the lead on Slayton’s second score.

Decatur had one last shot when Laughlin connected with Fossett on a controversial 20-yard pass play, a play where the receiver appeared to lose the football. The referee ruled the receiver had control of the ball and was down before he lost the ball.

That didn’t faze the Tiger defense. Tyler Phillips stayed at home on the speed sweep and tackled Fossett for a 10-yard loss. Dax Gillespie then leveled Littrell to break up a pass. Thomas Fleischman ran Littrell out of bounds for a sack to end the threat with 4:15 on the clock.

The Tigers offense then milked the remaining time off the clock thanks two first downs picked up by Aldridge.

In addition to Slayton’s big game, Aldridge finished with 73 yards on 12 carries with a touchdown. Stover also had 25 yards on six carries with one reception for 4 yards and a score. Jeston Thompson added an 11-yard gain.

On defense, players with sacks included Goodwin with 2 1/2, Fleischman with a 2 1/2 and Orr with one. Nick Beach also had three pass deflections.

Laughlin finished with 179 yards on 12 of 22 passing, 150 yards of which came in the first half.

The Tigers will travel to West Point next week while the Raiders will host Grissom.

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