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Hartselle quarterback Cal George runs the ball during the Muscle Shoals game. Photo by Mariann Parker"

First half dooms Tigers in loss to No. 3 Muscle Shoals

By Russell Frye 

For the Enquirer

The Tigers (1-3, 0-2) hosted Muscle Shoals (4-0, 2-0) for a Class 6A, Region 7 matchup Friday night at J.P. Cain Stadium.

Hartselle was looking for a winning streak in the series for the first time since they winning seven straight from 2002-2008. The Trojans have won seven of the previous nine games, but the Tigers won last year’s game 15-14, propelling them onto a region championship.

Hartselle got the ball first, and on the first play, Cal George hit Ian Bodine for a 29-yard completion to give the Tigers some momentum. Two plays later, they lost the momentum when Trojan linebacker Malik Smith forced George to fumble the ball as he was sacked. 

Muscle Shoals recovered the fumble at the Hartselle 44-yard line to start the Trojans’ first possession of the game.

The Trojans got on the scoreboard with a six-play drive following the Tiger turnover. Trojans’ QB and Nebraska commit Logan Smothers connected with Michael McIntosh for a 6-yard touchdown pass to give Muscle Shoals a 7-0 lead.

Muscle Shoals would extend that lead to 14-0 following a 13-yard touchdown run by Smothers. The scoring drive was highlighted by Smothers’ 46-yard run.

The Tigers’ first quality drive of the game came early in the second quarter, as they put together a seven-play drive. The Trojans defense stiffened as Hartselle was approaching the red zone and forced the Tigers to attempt a 47-yard field goal that came up short when it hit the crossbar.

Muscle Shoals answered the Hartselle drive with a four-play scoring drive that covered 80 yards in less than two minutes. A Smothers’ 36-yard touchdown pass to Ty Smith gave the Trojans a 21-0 lead.

The Tigers went back to work on their next drive. They moved the ball inside the Muscle Shoals 20-yard line and were looking to score their first points of the game. 

On the first play inside the 20, Trojans’ linebacker and Alabama commit Jackson Bratton tipped a George pass that was caught by a Muscle Shoals defensive back. The interception was returned 87 yards for another Muscle Shoals touchdown and a 28-0 lead right before halftime.

The Trojans extended their lead early in the second half on the second Smothers-to-McIntosh touchdown pass, a 36-yarder that gave Muscle Shoals a 35-0 lead.

The Tigers continued to play hard despite the large deficit they faced. Hartselle’s Ryan Langston, an outside linebacker, intercepted a Muscle Shoals pass and returned it 20 yards to set up the Tigers with possession at the Trojans’ 2-yard line.

Hartselle’s George scored on a QB-keeper to get the Tigers on the scoreboard. His run made the score 35-7.

The Tigers’ Brinten Barclay scored on a 20-yard run with 1:29 left to give Hartselle its second score of the game and make the final score 35-14.

Hartselle will now have two weeks to prepare for the next game at Briarwood Christian, Sept. 27.