Defeating the Curse

Hartselle looks to advance past the first round for the first time since 2012

Caleb Suggs

Hartselle Enquirer

To say that the last three years have been tough for the Hartselle Tigers football program would be understatement. Since suffering the loss of 14 starters after the 2012 season the Tigers have been working on building their depth back up. Moving into one of the toughest regions in the toughest class (6A) hasn’t exactly helped the cause. The Tigers have gone a combined 22-11, which includes a 12-7 region record, from 2013-2015 and have exited the playoffs in the first round each year. Last year was particularly rough for the Hartselle as the Tigers dealt with a lot of youth. In the Tiger’s four losses, they would compete well in the first half but would flat in the second half. The Tigers were outscored by a combined 97-10 in the second half of their four losses in 2015. However, there were some bright spots for the Tigers. Hartselle, along with Muscle Shoals, were the only two teams out of the seven teams in Class 6A Region 8 to make the playoffs in both 2014 and 2015.

The tide has definitely turned for the Tigers this year. Hartselle started the season 7-0, which is the best start they’ve had since their undefeated championship in 2011. A big part of that has been their offensive resurgence as their offense is averaging 33 points a game. Hartselle Quarterback Trevor Oakes has been the leader of that offense. The senior has thrown for almost 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns in 10 games. The defense hasn’t been too shabby either as they are only giving up 19 points per game, which includes two shutouts this season. Hartselle ran into a small hiccup when they dropped two in a row against Austin and Decatur. In the loss to Decatur, the Tigers looked completely gassed as Decatur ended a six game stretch in which the starters for Hartselle played from start to finish. However, the Tigers have had a bye week before their first round playoff game vs. Albertville.

The Tigers have used the bye week to their advantage as they have chosen to lighten the load and focus on healing up. “This is really important. Ten straight weeks of playing. A lot of people don’t understand what goes into that.” Oakes said. “It’s very taxing physically and mentally and its good to get settled down and recoup.” Hartselle Head Coach Bob Godsey shares Oakes opinions. “I hope it (the bye week) turns out to be really important. We have so many guys that are beat and banged up and we kind of planned it that way so we could have it to get guys healthy.” Godsey said. “We have a lot of guys were holding out this week to try and get rested and rejuvenated.”

Going into the season, Godsey felt that the Tiger’s depth this year would be important, but he didn’t realize how important. Hartselle suffered injuries to six different starters. In the seventh game of the year in a key region game on the road against Hazel Green the Tigers played 10 sophomores, which is 5 more than Godsey played in 2013, and those sophomores accounted for five of the Tiger’s six touchdowns that night. “Our depth has held pretty well. We had a lot of sophomores step in.” Godsey said. “It kind of came into question later in the season when we fell flat, but it’s hard for kids that age to be sharp every week. I’m proud of the way our guys have handled this season.”

As Hartselle ends the bye week and prepares for the playoffs, they are preparing for hopefully another five games. The Tigers will have start with a road game vs. Albertville. However, Hartselle is determined to advance past the first round and host a playoff game, two things no current Tiger has experienced.

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