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Hartselle clinches playoff berth, blows out Austin

A season’s worth of hard work has paid off for the Hartselle Tigers.

Week after week of grinding through the Class 6A, Region 8 schedule, the Tiger punched its ticket to the playoffs by dominating Austin 34-13.

After next Thursday’s game at Milton Frank Stadium against Hazel Green, No. 4 seed Hartselle (6-3, 3-3) will travel to Waldrop Stadium to take on Region 5 No. 1 seed Homewood (7-2, 6-0) in the first round of the playoffs.

Head coach Bob Godsey said he’s had as much fun coaching this team has any that he’s coached in his career.

“This has been a pleasure to be able to coach this team.” Godsey said. “This group has come so far. It felt like our backs were against the wall the whole month of October, but we always controlled our own destiny. I told them that they deserved to be in the playoffs after the first half of football, but they had come back and play the second half like they deserved the to be in the playoffs.”

The Tigers did just that. Hartselle outgained Austin 562-266 and averaged more than 9 yards per play.

Taylor Easterling was the workhorse, rushing for 174 yards on 29 carries with a touchdown that capped Hartselle’s scoring in the fourth quarter.

Jake Tiffin had an efficient 12 of 16 performance for 249 yards and two touchdowns. His first scoring toss went to Zeth Malcolm, who stretched out to catch the 25-yard touchdown pass.

Cody Salem added the extra point to give Hartselle a 7-0 lead with 7:11 remaining in the first quarter.

Moments into the second quarter, Tiffin went deep from his own 8-yard line and found Jaylan Jackson for a 92-yard touchdown pass.

Austin answered with a 69-yard drive of its own, capping it with Brandon Schreiber’s 7-yard pass to Eric Washington, cutting the lead to 14-6 at the 7:37 mark of the second quarter.

The Tigers turned to the ground game for the next score, as Jackson raced 19 yards for paydirt. That gave Hartselle a 21-6 lead at the half.

Jackson earned his second rushing touchdown of the night, racing 68 yards for a touchdown at the 5-minute mark of the third quarter.

Easterling accounted for 41 yards of a 98-yard drive in the fourth quarter, including the 5-yard touchdown run with 6:39 remaining in the game.

Austin added the final score on Schreiber’s 40-yard pass to Joshua Pearson. Hartselle recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal the win.

In addition to his exploits on offense, Malcolm recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass. Caleb Meyer, Chance Walker and Carter Shelton also accounted for sacks in the game.

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