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Late FG lifts Tigers over Indians

PINSON – Gavin Marsh hit a 19-yard field goal with four seconds left to give No. 2 Hartselle (12-0) a 22-21 win over Pinson Valley (9-3) Friday night.

Marsh’s field goal was set up by a two huge pass plays from Deacon Aldridge to Jeston Thompson, a fourth-down 15-yard completion and a 34-yard play that gave the Tigers first and goal at the Indian 6 with 54 seconds left in the game. On that second play, Thompson was elated to come up with the catch.

Jeston Thompson turns up field after making a key catch on fourth-and-14 against Pinson Valley Friday night. | Richard Hollingsworth

“All I was thinking was I got get this catch and make a touchdown,” Thompson said.

While he didn’t get in the end zone, Thompson gave Hartselle the field position it needed to win the game. On that pass play, Aldridge said his first read was covered. So he decided to throw it up for Thompson down the sideline, who out-jumped his defender and came down with both feet in bounds.

“I was trying to work it to the short side of the field and they were playing three over the top,” Aldridge said. “It was three-on-two. I went to my first read and it wasn’t there. So I put it up for him and trusted that he would make the play.”

And he did on that play and a fourth-down play before that.

“He just did a good job of working with me on that drive,” Aldridge said.

Blake Slayton runs for a big gain against Pinson Valley as Jeston Thompson looks for a block. | Richard Hollingsworth

Between the big receptions, Hartselle was once again down to its final play. Aldridge was sacked on a fourth down play, but Pinson Valley’s defender tackled Aldridge by the face mask, giving the Tigers new life.

On the 14th play of the drive, Marsh came in to give Hartselle the win. When asked whether he thought about missing a 39-yarder earlier in the game, the clutch kicker said “no.”

“I didn’t even think about it,” Marsh said. “I went out there just like it was a PAT and made it. That’s all.”

Pinson jumped out to a big lead thanks to some big passing plays. Kaleb Harris hooked up with Earnest Harris for an 18-yard touchdown on fourth-and-6.

Then Kaleb Harris connected with Harry Mason on a 42-yard strike to give Pinson Valley to make it 14-0 just moments into the second quarter.

It didn’t get much better when PVHS’s David King intercepted a Tiger pass at the Indian’s 2-yard line, but that’s when the Tiger defense made a play.

The Tigers pressured Kaleb Harris into a throw away in his own end zone, but there was no receiver in the area. By rule, he was flagged for a intentional grounding, giving Hartselle a safety. That safety would prove to be a key play in the game.

Casey Goodwin blocks a punt by Pinson Valley's Donald Efram, which led to Hartselle's go ahead touchdown early in the third quarter. | Richard Hollingsworth

Hartselle had the ball at the midfield stripe following the kickoff and the Tigers drove it down in 10 plays to cut the lead. After Masio Stover picked up 2 yards on fourth-and-1, Blake Slayton scored from 12 yards out to cut the lead to 14-9 heading into halftime.

After forcing a three-and-out on the first possession of the half, senior Casey Goodwin blocked Donald Efram’s punt, which was recovered by Thomas Fleischman. Slayton then carried the ball four consecutive plays, scoring from 4 yards out on the final play for the touchdown. Marsh’ extra point gave Hartselle a 16-14 lead.

Pinson Valley came right back driving 90 yards in just five plays. Earnest Harris broke free from his defender and caught a 54-yard strike, giving the Indians a 21-16 lead.

The Tigers had a good drive stall at the Pinson Valley 25, setting up Marsh for a 42-yard field goal to cut the lead to 21-19 with 2:50 left in the third quarter.

Tyler Phillips, who had an interception to end PVHS’s first drive of the game, knocked the ball loose from Pinson Valley’s Lorenzo Gray. Aaron Lamb fell on the ball at the Hartselle 33 giving the ball back to the Tigers.

Masio Stover drags a Pinson Valley tackler for extra yards. | Richard Hollingsworth

The Tigers had another good drive stall at the Pinson Valley 22-yard line. This time, however, Marsh came up just short on his 39-yard attempt.

Hartselle’s defense kept the Tigers in it. Gray was tackled short of a first down on a fourth down play. Then Goodwin shot through the Pinson Valley line and tackled Gray for a loss, forcing Pinson Valley to punt it back to Hartselle on its own 30-yard line with 2:59 to play.

Thompson and Aldridge got confused on the route on second down, but the two got together to make the first important play of the game-winning drive. On fourth-and-14, the offensive line gave Aldridge plenty of time to find Thompson open for the 15-yard gain and a first down.

Coach Bob Godsey celebrates with Jordan Orr and Dax Gillespie after the Tigers 22-21 win. | Richard Hollingsworth

Then on fourth-and-6, Aldridge was thrown for a loss, but he was brought down by the face mask. The penalty gave Hartselle new life again.

Then on third-and-5 from the Pinson 40, Aldridge checked down to Thompson to give Marsh the chance to win it.

“We showed a lot of poise out there tonight,” Aldridge said. “They came out there firing bullets, but we cut the lead right before the half. And then there at the end, we just wouldn’t quit.”

The Tigers season continues in Jefferson County again next week, as they will face Center Point (11-1). The Eagles defeated Etowah 26-20 on the road.

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