Fletcher brothers: Dominating on the gridiron
Photos by Jim Meadow and Mariann Parker
Family has always been at the forefront of Hartselle Tiger football, and the 2022 season will be no different. The Tigers have several sets of brothers who will play a significant part in the success of this year’s team.
Leading the way are the Fletcher brothers, Izayah and Ri. Izayah is heading into his fourth year as a starter for the Tigers, while his brother Ri is heading into his third year.
Izayah and Ri have played an enormous role in the Tigers’ high-octane offense the previous two seasons. Hartselle’s offense has averaged 36.4 points per game with the Fletchers in the lineup. In 2020, Izayah led the team with 51 receptions for 865 yards and seven touchdowns. Ri ran for 401 yards and four touchdowns on 56 carries while hauling in 23 receptions for 223 yards and two touchdowns.
In 2021, Izayah had 52 receptions for 852 yards and eight touchdowns. Ri, who dealt with an injury early in the season, finished with 1,053 yards and 18 touchdowns on 89 attempts while having 15 receptions for 178 yards and three touchdowns. The brothers also teamed up to form one of the most exciting return units in the state of Alabama. Izayah had 381 yards and a touchdown on 19 kickoff returns, while Ri had 261 yards on 13 returns.
One of Ri’s favorite memories of the two on the football field together has been being the two deep guys on the Tiger’s kickoff return teams. Hartselle head coach Bryan Moore has had the privilege of coaching the brothers for the three years they have been together in the Tigers’ football program.
“Both players are extremely important to our team in so many ways,” said Moore. Having players with the ability of Izayah and Ri has often created matchup issues for opposing teams.
“Izayah and Ri are very similar in overall ability and toughness but different in being very position specific,” said Moore. “Their body types are also different in that Izayah is longer, but Ri is built more compact.”
The brothers helped the Tigers to a 52-35 on the road at Muscle Shoals last season. Izayah finished with five receptions for a season-high 125 yards and two touchdowns. His touchdowns came in the first half to keep the Tigers tied with the Trojans. Ri finished with the biggest game of his career up until that point as he fan for 220 yards and four touchdowns on 12 carries. He also added two receptions for 22 yards and a touchdown. Ri’s touchdown reception came as time ended in the first half to tie the game at 21-21. His four rushing touchdowns came in the second half as Hartselle pulled away from Muscle Shoals. Both players have put up huge numbers in their careers at Hartselle. But, the Muscle Shoals game is arguably the best game they have had at the same time.
The best game of Izayah’s career came back in 2020 when the Tigers defeated Decatur 38-10. He finished with six receptions for 154 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged 25.7 yards per reception with a long of 55 yards.
“Izayah put together a big performance to help Hartselle pick up the win over the Red Raiders,” said Moore after the game in 2020. “Any time you come to Decatur and get a win, it is a good night.”
Ri’s best game came in the final regular season game of 2021 against Buckhorn. He finished with a career-high 314 yards rushing and six touchdowns on 16 attempts. He averaged 19.3 yards per carry in the Tigers’ 65-20 victory that secured their first 10-win season since 2018.
“Ri has gotten better and better each week after coming back from his injury to start the season,” said Moore after the game in 2021. “The Muscle Shoals game was his coming-out party, and his performance tonight was even better.”
Ri said that he was surprised with his performance following the game. Despite the huge numbers they have compiled over the last two seasons playing side by side, their demeanor on and off the field has not changed. They are soft-spoken leaders who would instead lead by example rather than by words.
“Both of them will be leaders this year,” said Moore. “It is their time to lead and shine as a senior and junior. They will have to grow in their leadership role.”
Playing college football is definitely in the future for both players.
“Obviously once done at Hartselle, they will have an opportunity to play college football and earn a degree,” said Moore. Izayah and Ri spent their summer camping at multiple college programs. Some schools were the University of Kentucky, Mercer University, University of South Florida, and Samford. Izayah has picked up multiple offers heading into his senior season. He currently holds offers from South Florida, Samford, Coastal Carolina, Georgia State, Florida Atlantic and Arkansas State. Ri has picked up offers from South Florida, Austin Peay and Southeast Missouri. Look for his recruitment to heat up throughout his junior season.
Izayah and Ri are great kids and a joy to coach,” said Moore. “Both are hard workers and are extremely invested in Hartselle football.”