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Hartselle holds off Fort Payne

 Defending 5A champs hold high-powered Wildcat offense without TD

FORT PAYNE – “Catch the play-making fever.”

That was Coach Bob Godsey’s motto for his team this week and his team caught that fever.

After losing four one-possession games this year, the Tigers (7-4) were finally the team that made the plays when it counted in their 14-6 over No. 3 Fort Payne (10-1) Friday night.

It didn’t matter whether it was Thomas Fleischman, Tyler Phillips, Aaron Lamb, Deacon Aldridge or Tanner Oakes. They all made key plays to keep the defending Class 5A state champions alive in the playoffs.

“There’s not a lot of groups at a lot of places that have been through what this group has,” Godsey said. “Because of that, these kids are learning unbelievable lessons. The proudest thing for me is to watch them fight and scratch and claw like they have – win or lose.”

Hartselle was in a situation all too familiar. They were leading late in the game, just needing to make one play to either put the game away or stop a team from scoring.

Four out of their five previous one-possession games, the Tigers came up on the short end, but tonight, Fleischman said his team was going make a different outcome.

“We said at halftime, the more times we make them snap it, the more times we have a chance of stopping them,” Fleischman said. “We kept our fundamentals and we kept true to our roots. We kept true to our opportunities and we finished it.”

Fleischman may have made the biggest play of the night. With a minute to play, Fort Payne had it third-and-goal at the Tiger 18-yard line. He came off the edge and sacked Fort Payne’s quarterback for a 13-yard loss.

“I came on a speed rush, I worked my hands, Did my form, I came through and there he was right in my arms,” Fleischman said. “I hopped up. It was all surreeal. Really I took a second and thought, “Well dang, we won it. It clinched it.”

Then on fourth down, Hartselle defenders, including Phillips and Lamb knocked down Fort Payne’s last pass at the goal line to seal the win.

The only points came on a 44-yard touchdown pass from Aldridge to Oakes. Jack Waterman added the extra point to make it 7-0 at halftime.

Fort Payne capped off a 16-play drive on their opening possession of the second half with a 27-yard field goal.

But as the third quarter ended, Hartselle was in the red zone to put the game away. Aldridge called his own number from six yards out to give Hartselle a 14-3 lead.

“Once I got in the end zone, the game’s not over, but I had a better feeling about the game,” Aldridge said. “We just played us. They can only do so much. We stopped ourselves, the really hadn’t stopped us. We just kept grinding.”

Fort Payne cut the lead to 14-6 with five minutes to play in regulation on a 35-yard field goal, but that’s as close as it got.

The Tigers will now host Wenonah in the second round of the playoffs Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. The Dragons defeated Center Point 30-0 Friday night.