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Muscle Shoals edges Hartselle

MUSCLE SHOALS – Many have said that football is a game of inches. If that’s the case, then No. 1 Muscle Shoals is an inch better than No. 4 Hartselle.

Jermarcus Nance barely scored a 1-yard touchdown with eight seconds left in regulation to give the Trojans a 28-21 win over the Tigers Friday night.

At first glance, it appeared like football didn’t break the plane of the goal line as Jackson tried to go over the top because the Hartselle defense quickly met him at the line of scrimmage. However, the line judge eventually signaled touchdown.

The Tigers had one last shot with five seconds left as Hartselle attempted a couple of laterals to score a touchdown, but they came up short as Muscle Shoals (6-0, 4-0) stayed unbeaten while Hartselle (4-2, 3-1) has now lost its last two.

“We played our guts out tonight,” said Hartselle head coach Bob Godsey. “They just made one more play than we did.”

Prior to Friday night, Muscle Shoals had only given up nine points all season long, but the Tigers managed to score 21 points, thanks in part to a valiant effort by Deacon Aldridge. He passed for nearly 200 yards and had three touchdown passes in the loss.

The first of his touchdown passes went to Blake Slayton on a 12-yard play. Hunter Hammack added the extra point to give Hartselle a 7-0 midway through the first quarter.

Muscle Shoals came back and tied the game on a 41-yard Nance touchdown run. The first quarter ended with a 7-7 tie.

Hartselle wasn’t done in the first half, as Aldridge hooked up with Sidney Steele on a 26-yard touchdown pass on a fourth down play. The extra point failed leaving the Tigers ahead 13-7.

Trojan QB Ryan Ware connected with Tyler Jackson on a 54-yard pass to the Hartselle 5-yard line. Weston Allen finished it off with a 5-yard touchdown. Kicker Stephen Logan gave Muscle Shoals a 14-13 lead at halftime.

That’s the way the score would stay until the fourth quarter. Muscle Shoals had a 13-yard touchdown wiped out by a clipping penalty, forcing a long field goal. The Tiger defense earned the stop after Logan missed his 47-yard field goal.

However, Hartselle could do nothing and punted the ball back to Muscle Shoals midway through the fourth quarter.

That’s when Jackson seemingly put the game out of reach with a 21-yard touchdown with 4:30 remaining in the game leading 21-13.

But Aldridge and the Hartselle offense wouldn’t allow that to happen. The Tigers drove 74 yards in 11 plays to tie the game.

Hartselle appeared to go three-and-out after Aldridge was sacked in the backfield, but the Trojan defender was flagged for celebration following the play, giving Hartselle new life at the Tiger 39.

Aldridge then called his own number for a quick 11-yard gain to midfield. Then on third-and-nine, Aldridge eluded the sack of Auburn commit Dee Liner and found Preston Adams for a 13-yard gain.

Steele then had another 13-yard reception to the Trojan 24. After a roughing the passer penalty, Steele and Aldridge hooked up for the 9-yard touchdown.

After a timeout, the two hooked up to score the game-tying two-point conversion with 1:30 remaining in the game.

Muscle Shoals wasn’t done as they picked up a couple of quick first downs up to midfield with 45 seconds to go. Then, Jackson got the corner ran 51 yards before being forced out of bounds by Aaron Lamb at the Tiger 1.

Muscle Shoals didn’t get in on first-and-goal with 20 seconds remaining. After taking a timeout, the Trojans elected to go for the touchdown.

If the referees hadn’t ruled that Jackson put the ball in the end zone, time would have run out and the teams would have went to overtime.

Instead, Muscle Shoals got the break and won the game.

Godsey, however, hopes this is not the only meeting this season.

“All is not lost,” Godsey said. “We hope that somewhere down the road, we’ll see these guys again.

“We’ll go back and reload and hopefully this figured out.”