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Enquirer photo/Mariann Parker Hartselle’s No. 12 Cal George hands the ball off to No. 32 Brinten Barclay.

Hartselle falls to Austin 45-14 to kick off season

The Bo Culver era at Hartselle started Friday night as the Tigers traveled to Decatur for a matchup against the Austin Black Bears that ultimately went Austin’s way.

This was the 43rd game in the series between the two schools dating back to 1964; they have played in every season except for 1978, 2008 and 2009. 

Hartselle leads the series 30-21-1, which includes last season’s 24-17 thriller.

Culver entered the night with a handful of players who had experienced meaningful snaps in their time with the Tigers. Even with the inexperience, Culver had high expectations for his young team entering the game against the Black Bears.

To start the game, the Tigers won the toss and deferred to the start of the second half, giving Austin the ball to start the first half.

The Black Bears started the game at the 30-yard line and proceeded to go on a nine-play drive in 4:45 to score the first touchdown of the game. Austin QB Quincy Crittendon completed three passes for 44 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown pass to Tre Shackelford to go up 7-0.

The Tigers offense, led by junior Cal George, started its first possession from the 15-yard line. George went two-for-three on the drive for 23 yards and got the Hartselle offense to the 38-yard line before being forced to punt.

Following a seven-yard punt, the Black Bears took possession on the 45-yard line to start their second drive. 

The Tigers’ Mark Pettus sacked Austin’s Crittendon for a five-yard loss on first down. Following the sack, the Black Bears’ Tyhlen Williams slashed through the Hartselle defense for a 19-yard run and a first down at the Tigers’ 31-yard line. 

On the next play, Austin’s Jevon Jackson pulled in a 31-yard Crittendon pass for his first touchdown of the night, giving the Black Bears a 14-0 lead.

Hartselle got on the scoreboard with 8:34 to go in the second quarter following a four-play, 60-yard drive. The highlight of the drive was a George 50-yard pass completion to Izayah Fletcher. 

Two plays later, George ran around the left side of the Austin defense for 12 yards and a touchdown. This cut the Austin lead to 14-7.

With just less than 1:30 to go in the first half, Austin’s Shackelford returned a Hartselle punt 31 yards to the Tigers’ 39-yard line to give the Black Bears a chance to put more points on the board. 

Following a holding penalty that moved Austin back to the 47-yard line, the Tiger defense forced the Black Bears into two zero-yard plays and a long third-down try. 

Crittendon hit Shackelford once again – this time for 47 yards and another Austin touchdown. This gave the Black Bears a 21-7 lead heading into halftime.

The Hartselle defense, which gave up 66 yards rushing in the first half, struggled to stop the run in the second half, as they were playing without one of their defensive leaders in Boyer. 

Austin picked up 237 yards rushing in the third and fourth quarters, as the Black Bears would add to the lead.

Austin scored 10 points in the third quarter, including three points following a George interception with 4:18 left. The Tigers’ defense stymied the Black Bears with two sacks that forced the 39-yard field goal that made the score 31-7.

The Tigers put together their best drive of the night following a 46-yard kickoff return by Hunter Driver that gave Hartselle excellent field position at the Austin 48-yard line. The Tigers quickly moved downfield on the legs of Brinten Barclay, who had 11 yards on two carries, and the arm of George, who completed two more passes to Fletcher for a total of 37 yards and a touchdown. 

The score cut the Austin lead to 31-14.

Any momentum the Tigers might have had ended on the next Austin possession, as Jackson reeled off an 85-yard touchdown run to make the score 38-14.

Jackson added his third touchdown of the night with 3:18 to go on a 10-yard run to make the score 45-14.

Hartselle returns home Aug. 30 with a matchup against Brooks. The Lions enter the game 1-0 following their 69-38 victory over Lauderdale County Thursday night. Hartselle defeated Brooks 34-18 last season. 

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