Lee leads Hartselle to second-half rally to defeat Oxford

The Hartselle Tigers found themselves in unfamiliar territory through two quarters of their game with no. 8 Oxford. The visiting Yellow Jackets held the Tigers scoreless in the first half, leading 7-0 heading into the locker room.

“We found ourselves in a hole at halftime,” Hartselle coach Bryan Moore said. “We couldn’t get anything going offensively, but our defensive kept us close.”

Oxford then extended their lead to 14-0 and things looked dim for the Tigers.

However, Hartselle answered with a 62-yard scoring drive, capped off by a Noah Lee 8-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 14-7.

The Yellow Jackets again extended their lead to 14 points with a 3-yard touchdown run with less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter.

The fourth quarter started with Oxford turning the ball over on downs when their punter fielded the snap with his knee on the ground, giving Hartselle the ball at the Oxofrd 17-yard line. Unfortunately, the Tigers could not do anything with the ball and gave the ball back to Oxford after being sacked on fourth down.

The Tigers ‘ offense came to life after getting the ball back with a little more than eight minutes left. Lee led the Tigers on a three-play, 56-yard touchdown drive to cut the Oxford lead to 21-14. Lee connected with Lincoln Bryant on a 15-yard pass play before hitting Marcus Tapscott with a 41-yard touchdown pass with 7:34 remaining.

“We got some good field position that led to the big play to Marcus,” Moore said. “It gave us a spark, especially on the defensive side, who rose up and dominated the rest of the game. It was something special.”

After forcing an Oxford punt, Hartselle took possession of the ball at their own 39-yard line with 5:29 remaining and trailing 21-14. Lee connected on three consecutive pass plays, including a 29-yarder to Jayden Morris to quickly move to the Oxford 27-yard line. Lee ran for 13 yards before Fletcher had a 12-yard run and then a one-yard scoring run to make the score 21-20 with 3:47 left.

The Tigers lined up for the extra point, but Oxford jumped offside before they could get it off. The penalty moved the ball to the one-and-a-half-yard line. This left coach Moore with a decision to make as his team stood around him near the sideline. He ran his offense back out on the field for a two-point conversion try.

Lee lined up under center and then powered his way into the endzone for the 2-point conversion, giving Hartselle their first lead of the game at 22-21.

“Give me the ball,” Lee said. “I wanted to go for two after the touchdown, and then Oxford jumped offside. Give me the ball.”

“What a play by Noah,” Moore said. “It was a risky call, and he got the ball across the line.”

The Tigers’ defense, which was the story of the fourth quarter, held the high-powered Oxford offense to -5-yards on their final two drives to seal the win for the Tigers.

The defense, which had given up over 300 yards to Oxford in just over three quarters, held the Yellow Jackets to negative one yard over the final eight minutes.

“The situation fit Oxford perfectly with their high-powered offense,” Moore said. “But the defense rose up and held them to no yards the remainder of the game.”

In his first start, Lee finished 17-of-23 for 196 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. He also ran for 19 yards, a touchdown and the game-winning two-point conversion.

Fletcher finished with 66 yards rushing, a touchdown, and 27 yards receiving.

Tapscott led the team with a career-high 91 yards receiving and a touchdown, while Morris had 47 yards receiving.

“I had a couple of drops early in the game, but my coaches kept their faith in me,” Tapscott said. “Noah gave me a good ball that I could get in the endzone with.”

Jake Haynes led the defensive chard with 12 tackles, while Payton Steele added nine. Porter Simmons and Andrew Carroll each had a sack.

Hartselle (5-1, 2-0) heads back into region play on Friday as #5 Muscle Shoals (5-0, 2-0) comes to JP Cain Stadium. The Tigers defeated the Trojans 29-26 last season.

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