Offense can't score, Hartselle loses
Nick Johnston, Hartselle Enquirer
Hartselle held the Austin Black Bears to minimal yardage and forced three fumbles with a stifling defense Thursday night.
A recipe for success, perhaps, for Tigers head coach Mike Smith.
"We had 'em," Smith said of Austin. "We played the game like we were supposed to."
However, slippery fingers and Austin's Cody Jackson being in the right place at the right time thwarted Smith's bid of an upset.
Austin scored a defensive touchdown with 30 seconds remaining in the third quarter to beat Hartselle 7-0.
"It finally came down to who capitalized on the other's mistake," Smith said. "And they did."
The play occurred on first and 10 from Hartselle's 20-yard line. Quarterback Kevin Jones looked for running room on the left side where he was met by three Austin defenders.
The ball was jarred loose and Jackson was there for the recovery. The 6-2, 296 pound defensive tackle did not fall on the ball, but scooped it up and ran 20 yards for the score.
"Our quarterback made first-year mistakes," Smith said. "If we don't fumble, we're still playing (Friday) morning."
One crucial aspect of the game, according to Smith, was Austin punter Jason Rowan.
Rowan, who also is starting quarterback, kept the Tigers pinned deep in their own territory with booming punts of 60, 46, 46, 46 and 48 yards.
"He kept us backed up the whole game," Smith said. "We never had good field position until the end of the game."
With under two minutes remaining in the game, senior Stephen Crumpton recovered a fumble at Austin's 25-yard line.
Four plays later on fourth and eight from the 23, Jones, who completed two of eight passes for 13 yards and rushed for 52 more, could not hook up with a receiver for a first down and Austin ran out the clock.
"The bottom line is we couldn't get anything going on offense," Smith said. "But, I think that is more of a tribute to Austin's defense."
As for Hartselle's defense, the Tigers allowed only 46 yards on the ground and 75 through the air. The Black Bears did not cross the first down marker until the second quarter when they began to drive down the field.
Austin marched to the 33-yard line before stalling. The Black Bears went for it on fourth down and eight, but defensive pressure caused an errant pass.
Following the stop, Hartselle took control and fumbled on its second play from scrimmage. Austin, though, fumbled the ball back to Hartselle on its first play from scrimmage.
See HARTSELLE, B-3