Previewing Hartselle vs. Albertville

Caleb Suggs

Hartselle Enquirer

This week begins the first round of the AHSAA playoffs and the Hartselle Tigers will be looking to advance past the first round for the first time since 2012. Their opponent will be the Albertville Aggies who will be looking for their first playoff win since 2002 when they advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to Hartselle. The Tigers are coming off a bye week and are sure to be super refreshed heading into the playoff game.

Schedule Overview: Hartselle comes in with an 8-2 record and finished third in Class 6A Region 8, which is considered the toughest region in Class 6A. The Tiger’s biggest wins are a 36-33 win over Muscle Shoals, a 45-38 win over Russellville and a 40-18 win over Hazel Green. Their two losses were to Austin (24-16) and Decatur (41-29). Albertville also comes in with an 8-2 record. Their biggest wins were a 44-21 win over Cullman, 42-28 win over Southside and a 24-20 comeback win over Guntersville. Their two losses were 44-0 to Oxford, who is ranked second in the state, and 29-23 to Pell City. The loss to Oxford is a bit skewed as Albertville quarterback Will Appleton suffered an injury on the first play of the game. The two teams have played two mutual opponents in Cullman and Columbia. Hartselle defeated Cullman, in a rainstorm, 27-17 and Columbia 44-0. Albertville defeated Cullman 44-21 and Columbia 42-13.

Strengths: Both teams come in featuring strong passing attacks led by great quarterbacks. Hartselle quarterback Trevor Oakes has thrown for 1,948 yards this season and 20 touchdowns. Albertville quarterback Will Appleton has thrown for 1,186 yards and 15 touchdowns in just six games. Appleton suffered a broke arm to his non-throwing shoulder on the first play against Oxford. He returned against Southside to lead the Aggies to wins over the Panthers and over Guntersville. The Aggies are undefeated when Appleton is under center.

Players to watch: This game will feature some dynamic athletes and is sure to cater to the offensive people. Hartselle receivers Connor Burks and Luke Godsey will be players to watch in this game. Burks has come on strong late in the year as he has accounted for three scores in the Tiger’s last two games. Godsey has also turned into a valuable weapon for the Tigers as a player that can take short catches and turn them into big gains. For Albertville, Cody Collier will be the guy to keep an eye on. Collier leads the Aggies in receiving with 45 catches, 847 yards and 13 touchdowns. He has been the go to guy all year. Defensively for Hartselle Caleb Meyer will be a big key. Meyer’s ability to get to the quarterback could be huge for the outcome. Albertville’s Logan Richards will be a key player as well. Richards plays a hybrid linebacker/safety position and his versatility gives the Aggies a valuable weapon.

Keys to the game: Getting back to the short passing game is crucial for Hartselle. Oakes ability to be deadly accurate at mid-range coupled with the receiver’s abilities to get yards after catch has given defenses fits all year. The Tigers had trouble utilizing it against Austin and Decatur but got it back on track against Columbia. For Albertville, taking advantage of Hartselle’s pass defense could be crucial. The Tigers gave up big plays through the air vs. Austin and Decatur and it doesn’t get any easier against Collier.

The injury bug hit Hartselle hard this year, most notable against Hazel Green when 10 sophomores saw the field. They also looked noticeably gassed vs. Decatur, which was the end of tough six game stretch for Hartselle. However, the Tigers are coming off a bye week in which getting healthy was the main focus. Now the Tigers have the luxury of having the majority of their starters back along with all the players that stepped up in their absence.

Albertville head coach Dale Pruitt, father of Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, is in his second season at Albertville and has brought the Aggies to new heights. The Aggies will be looking to take their first major step by getting their first playoff win over since 2002 and getting revenge against Hartselle who ahs put them out in 2002 and 2009.

Hartselle will travel to Albertville on Friday.

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