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Tigers fall in 2OT to Austin

DECATUR – Hartselle’s playoff destination has been set, but unfortunately for the Tigers, they will be traveling Fort Payne next week.

That’s because Austin overcame Hartselle’s 20-0 halftime lead to defeat the Tigers 34-27 in double overtime Thursday night.

Coming into the game, Hartselle only needed to win its final regular season game to earn the second seed in Class 5A, Region 8 and a home playoff game with Arab.

However, Austin wouldn’t let that happen.

“I’m just completely numb right now,” said Hartselle coach Bob Godsey following the devastating loss. “I don’t really know what to say, but we’re just going to have to get this fixed.”

Hartselle built its 20-0 lead with a good balanced attack. Deacon Aldridge passed for 124 yards on 10 of 15 passes with one interception.

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The Tigers also rolled up 139 yards on the ground in the first half, thanks in part to sophomore D’Andre Mack, who finsihed with 91 yards on 19 carries with a touchdown and Deacon Aldridge’s 94-yard night.

Hartselle’s Garrett Fowler was also the favorite target of Austin quarterback Chris Sparkman. Fowler intercepted three of Sparkman’s nine first-half passes, only three of which were completions.

The first of his picks, which came after Austin recovered an onside kick to open the game, sparked an impressive 80-yard drive. Aldridge completed a 29-yard pass to Nick Beach to move Hartselle inside Austin territory.

Mack capped off the first drive on an 18-yard touchdown run. Jack Waterman added the extra point to make it 7-0 less than three minutes into the game.

After an Austin interception in the end zone ended another promising drive, Hartselle posted another 49-yard drive. Aldridge connected with Beach on a six-yard pass for the first of two touchdown catches. This time it was from six yards out. The extra point failed with Hartselle leading 13-0 moments into the second quarter.

Masio Stover then added one more touchdown on a four-yard run at the two-minute mark of the second quarter to give Hartselle a 20-0 halftime advantage.

Everything was going Hartselle’s way. They outgained Austin 263-46 and had held the Black Bears to -1 passing yards.

However, the momentum went to Austin’s side when Josh Walker broke free for a 46-yard touchdown. The extra point failed, leaving the score 20-6 midway through the third quarter.

Then on the second play of the fourth quarter, Sparkman scrambled for a four-yard touchdown, cutting the lead to 20-13.

After an exchange of punts, it appeared like Hartselle was going to put the game away. The Tigers drove into the red zone, thanks in part to another 31-yard reception by Beach and a roughing the punter penalty.

But Hartselle turned it over in the red zone on a fumble recovered by Austin at its own nine-yard line with five minutes to play.

From there, Austin drove the length of the field and faced fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line with less than two minutes to go.

The Hartselle defense turned the Black Bears away with an eight-yard tackle for a loss, giving the Tiger offense the ball with 1:36 to play.

It appeared like the game might be over since Austin also only had one timeout left, but that’s when Hartselle opened the door for Austin one more time. The Black Bears recovered a fumble at the Tiger eight-yard line with 46.6 to play in regulation.

An illegal substitution backed them up to the 13-yard line, but that didn’t stop Austin. Walker took it into the end zone from there on Sparkman’s screen pass. Phillip Corlew added the extra point to tie the game and send it to overtime.

Aldridge hooked up again with Beach for a five-yard touchdown on the opening drive of overtime. Despite two penalties, Waterman nailed the 30-yard extra point to give Hartselle its first points since the first half.

Walker responded with a five-yard touchdown run two plays later, sending it to double overtime. That’s when he broke free for a 10-yard touchdown run to give Austin a 34-27 lead.

In Hartselle’s possession, all four of its pass attempts fell incomplete, sealing the comeback for Austin.

Hartselle will travel to Region 7 champion Fort Payne in the first round of the Class 5A State Playoffs Nov. 9.

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