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Never count out Hartselle

Never count out Hartselle

Caleb Suggs

Hartselle Enquirer

“We just can’t let everyone get in our heads about how good they are. We have to play our game.” The statement made by senior defensive back Lane Anders regarding Hartselle’s opponent this week the, Muscle Shoals Trojans, speaks the truth. These days Muscle Shoals dominates much of the North Alabama football talk.  Everyone loves to talk about how good they are. I would be lying if I said it’s not deserved as the Trojans have reeled off a 45-8 record since 2011, and have had appearances in the second, third, and fourth round of the playoffs as well as an appearance in the state championship in 2013.

However, to the Hartselle Tigers, those are just words. The Tigers are not intimidated by the Trojans but they also understand the amount of talent the Trojans have at their disposal, and they know it will take their best shot to beat them. It will be battle of strengths coming in as Hartselle’s tough defense that is only allowing an average of 14 points a game, will look to stop a high powered Muscle Shoals offense that is averaging 42 points a game.

Nobody has found an answer so far to Shoal’s triple option, but Hartselle is definitely up to the task. The key Friday night will all start up front. A triple option offense is all smoke and mirrors as they use misdirection to hand the ball off to any of three or four guys that can go either direction. The more penetration the Hartselle defensive front can get on the Trojans the more it will throw off the timing of the Trojan offense. Penetration by the defensive line is also important as the more they contain the inside run game by themselves, the more it will allow the rest of the defense to worry about containing the wing backs and keeping them from getting to the edge with their speed.

Despite Hartselle’s strong defense and undefeated region record though, Muscle Shoals will no doubt come in a strong favorite.

It is not uncommon for the Hartselle to play the role of underdog. In fact, Hartselle has played it for much of its career including several times in the 2011 15-0 season when the Tigers ran the table all the way to Bryant Denny Stadium and the Class 5a State Championship.

Hartselle’s identity is not in size or strength but rather in discipline and execution. The Tigers thrive on being the underdog as it gives them the ability to play with nothing to lose.

Hartselle is also playing with a purpose. The Tigers are 0-5 against the Trojans since 2009 (they did not play in 2010 and 2011) and the current seniors are 0-4 against them. Their have been plenty of close calls though including last year when the Tigers made a roaring comeback after being down 21-7 with just seven minutes left in the game before ultimately losing 36-28 in double overtime.

Even though they lost the game, Hartselle head coach Bob Godsey knew his team was special after that game. “A lot of teams would have given up after being down 21-7 with seven minutes left,” Godsey said. “But they never quit.” Now Hartselle gets the Trojans at home and they are more hungry and determined to win than I think they have ever been.

It’s hard to beat a rival on the road determined to win at all costs. They have to listen to how good you are for so long. Just ask the 2013 Alabama team if you do not believe me. There may be no kick six when Muscle Shoals travels to Hartselle this Friday at 7:00 p.m., but there is sure to be plenty of fireworks.