Tigers fall to Austin on Homecoming

A late surge by Hartselle can’t save them from costly mistakes

Caleb Suggs

Hartselle Enquirer

Sometimes the breaks just don’t fall your way. That’s what the Hartselle Tigers learned on their homecoming night as the welcomed the Austin Black Bears to J.P. Cain stadium. Hartselle was riding on their best season since 2011 and were sitting at first place in Class 6A Region 8. A win over Austin would allow them to take a huge step in claiming their first region title since 2011. Meanwhile, the Black Bears of Austin came in with hopes of bringing the region title one step closer to them. It was a game of high stakes.

What was thought to be a high scoring affair turned into a defensive slugfest early on. Both teams traded punts as they tried to get a feel for each other. It looked as if Hartselle would make the first move as they moved into Austin territory but a costly interception would stall the drive.

As the second quarter started, Austin would get on the board first when Malieq Senior returned a punt all the way to the house to give the Black Bears the lead 7-0. However, they wouldn’t hold on to the lead long. On the first play of the next drive, Hartselle running back Taylor Easterling, who was playing in his first game back this season, busted through the middle for an 80 yard score after the offensive line created a nice hole for him to run through. With the score, the Tigers tied the game 7-7.

It looked as if all the momentum was now on Hartselle’s side. The Tigers forced a three and out, and then quarterback Trevor Oakes connected with Keondre Swoopes and Garrett Wade on two plays of 20 plus yards to move to the Austin 20 yard line. Hartselle moved inside the 10 the next play but a crucial illegal receiver downfield penalty would bring it back. On the next play, Austin would tip the pass and intercept it to kill the Tiger’s drive.

The Black Bears would take the ball and move into Hartselle territory but would throw an interception at the Hartselle one to Keondre Swoopes. The Black Bears would still get good field position though after a shanked punt. Austin would make the Tigers pay when Paxton Montgomery connected with Jalik Jaggwe to make the score 14-7. However, Hartselle wouldn’t go away though as they moved down the field in a minute and 27 seconds and cut the lead to 14-10 with a Beau Nosal field goal.

As the second half started, it seemed as if Hartselle had no energy. A fumble in the end zone by Austin would stall the Black Bears drive, but the Tigers would throw an interception right back. Austin would improve their lead to 21-10 when Montgomery connected with Jaggwe again, on a play that was set up by a 51 yard run by Antonio Robinson.

However, just when it seemed that the game was slipping away from Hartselle, Trevor Oakes connected with Garrett Wade for a 57 yard catch down the sideline to the Austin 37. A few plays later and Oakes would find Garner for a 38-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 21-16.

Hartselle looked poised to complete the comeback when the Tigers forced a three and out with three and half minutes left in the game, but the Tigers would go nowhere. Hartselle’s last crucial mistake would come when they gave up a crucial pass interference call on an uncatchable ball. This would give the Black Bears a new set of downs. Austin would put the game out of reach by converting another first down and tacking on a field goal. Austin took the win 24-16.

After the game, Hartselle Head Coach Bob Godsey knew it just wasn’t his team’s night. “It was heck of ball game and it just didn’t go our way tonight. We had a couple chances to get it done and we didn’t” Godsey said, “Win, lose or draw you have to put it behind you. Some of the bounces didn’t go our way tonight but you have to respond and this team will respond.”

With the loss to Austin, Region 8 has now been blown wide open. Austin, Decatur, Muscle Shoals and Hartselle are now all tied for first with one region loss apiece. Next week, Austin will host Muscle Shoals while Hartselle will host Decatur. A win by Hartselle and an Austin loss will put the Tigers back in the drivers seat.

Player of the game: Taylor Easterling. Easterling’s return came when the Tigers needed him the most. Hartselle had been hurting at the running back position due to injuries. Easterling made a statement in his return by posting a 100 plus yard game, which included an 80 yard touchdown run. He is still nursing an injury to his wrist as well as he still has some rust after not playing since November of last year. However, his return was a welcomed addition to a Tiger offense that only posted 24 yards rushing last week.

 

 

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