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Tigers overcome rough start

TUSCALOOSA – It might not have been a perfect game, but the Hartselle Tigers (1-0) proved they deserved to be the top team in Class 5A by defeating Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa (0-1) 42-14 in the opening game of the 2012 football season.

The beginning – a muff on the opening kickoff and a fumble on the first offensive play – wasn’t what head coach Bob Godsey envisioned.

However, that early adversity showed just how resilient defending Class 5A state champion Hartselle is. The Tiger defense stepped up, keeping Hillcrest off the scoreboard while the offense worked through its difficulties en route to a dominating win.

“I’m just so proud of our guys for showing poise and not panicking when things went wrong,” Godsey said. “We’re going to face adversity down the road and it was good to see that poise we showed under pressure.”

In particular, the defense stepped up as Kody Kodra and Waid Miller had tackles for loss to end the Patriots’ first drive. Then, Tyler Phillips intercepted a pass inside the red zone to end the Hillcrest threat.

The Tiger offense settled down and drove the football, getting a good push. Godsey attributed that to the blocking of his wide receivers on the perimeter.

“I really thought our wide receivers blocked well for us tonight,” Godsey said. “They’re the reason why we had so much success running the ball tonight. It’s hard to single out just one of them, but all of them really did an outstanding job for us.”

In fact it was a receiver who put Hartselle on the board first. Sidney Steele took the handoff on a speed sweep 10 yards for a touchdown. Hunter Hammack added the extra point to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead with 4:52 to play in the first.

A pair of long drives allowed Deacon Aldridge and Blake Slayton to score on one-yard touchdown run. Slayton’s carry capped a 16-play drive.

With the 21-0 lead, the coaching staff decided to give backup quarterback Brett Blackwood a series. That decision paid off as he completed a short pass to Tanner Oakes, who weaved his way through the defense 74 yards for the last touchdown of the first half. Steele provided the last block to clear the way for Oakes.

Oakes led all receivers with five receptions for 102 yards.

The Tigers put the game out of reach with another long touchdown drive. This time, Slayton scored from nine yards out to make it 35-0 with 3:47 left in the third quarter.

Hillcrest took advantage of the third lost Tiger fumble late in the third. Riley Nix connected with Austin Williams on an 18-yard touchdown pass, cutting the lead to 35-7 with 10 seconds left in the period.

Steele squashed any momentum the Patriots got from that score as he took the short kickoff 75 yards for the final Tiger touchdown as time expired in the third quarter.

Hillcrest did add another touchdown on Charles Bester’s three-yard scoring run.

The Tigers will play its first region game of the season against Lawrence County.

Offensive stat leaders:

Steele had 139 all-purpose yards with 34 rushing, 29 receiving and 76 kick return yards. Slayton led the team in rushing with 76 yards on 13 carries with three scores.

Sacking it to Hillcrest

The Tigers had six sacks for an estimated 32 yards. Miller, Chance Walker and Oliver Duncan had solo sacks while Dakota Youngblood had two assisted sacks and Toby Swims, Thomas Fleischman, Masio Stover and Zac Pershin all had an assisted sack.

Miscues

The Tigers had six fumbles for the game, losing three of them. Two of the three fumbles came within the first two minutes of the game.

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