Fourth-quarter play elevates Tigers over Black Bears
Charles Prince, Hartselle Enquirer
You know the story. A boxer with one last chance at glory is fighting for the title. It looks like he's beaten, but he fights back and somehow finds a way to win.
The Hartselle football team staged their own "Rocky" story not once, but twice against Austin this past week.
The Tigers fell behind by 14 points and appeared to be beaten, first in the opening period of play and again in the third period. But they didn't throw in the towel and somehow fought back and found a way to win. Producing not only a 21-point rally in the final 16 minutes of play, but also making a two defensive stands in the final three minutes to protect the lead. When the drama ended, Hartselle had whipped the Black Bears for the first time in five seasons, 35-30.
"We had every opportunity to shut it down and quit tonight," Hartselle coach Bob Godsey said. "But our guys wouldn't do it, In the first quarter when it was 14-0, we could've quit. But, we didn't. In the third we got down 14 again, but they didn't give in. I can't say enough good things about what this team did tonight."
Hartselle trailed 14-0 after only five and a half minutes of play.
The Tigers answered back when Justin Youngblood scored on a five-yard run with four minutes remaining in the opening period of play. The score followed a Travis Lightle recovery of Black Bear fumble at the Austin 25-yard line.
On the opening drive of the second period, Youngblood scored the second of his four touchdowns on a 52-yard, now the defenders see him, now they don't run.
Youngblood reversed the field and made four Black Bears miss tackles along the way. When Patrick Whatley was true on the point-after the game was knotted at 14.
Austin regained the lead just before the half when quarterback Kevin Elwell found Cameron Gregg open in the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown pass.
The Black Bears took the 21-14 lead into the locker room at intermission.
After forcing a Tiger punt on the opening drive of the third period, Austin marched 65 yards in nine plays to grab what appeared to be an insurmountable two-touchdown lead at 28-14.
The score came on an eight-yard pass from Elwell to tailback LaMarcus Russell with 6:52 left in the period.
The Tigers answered quickly to get back into the game. Hartselle quarterback Seth Watson connected with Chris Wiley on a 55-yard touchdown pass on third down and 12.
The score would be the first of three-straight Tiger drives to end in Hartselle touchdowns.
After forcing an Austin punt, Hartselle drove 78 yards in 11 plays to tie the score at 28.
Youngblood scored his third touchdown to end the drive, while Watson was three-for-three passing for 29 yards on the march.
Hartselle's defense then forced another Austin punt to set up the go-ahead touchdown.
The march covered 62 yards in five plays, ending when Youngblood broke up the middle to pay dirt from 25 yards out.
The score gave Hartselle a 35-28 lead and set the stage for two dramatic defensive stands by the Tigers late in the game.
Austin moved 72 yards in seven plays to the Tiger four-yard line with three minutes to play. Two running plays gained no yardage and left the Black Bears with a third and goal.
Tiger sophomore Quinn Dunlap then knocked away pass attempts on consecutive plays in the left corner of the end zone to turn the ball back to Hartselle on downs.
After taking a safety with 58 seconds remaining, Hartselle lead 35-30. But, the Tigers would need one more big defensive play to come away with the win.
The Black Bears took the ensuing kick and drove from their 45-yard line to the Tiger 20 with 18 seconds to play.
On the next play, Tiger junior Jeff Witt stepped in front of the intended receiver and picked off Elwell's pass to secure the victory.
"Our defense make a few mistakes tonight," Godsey said.
"But they wouldn't let them in when they got down close on those last two drives. We had a junior come up with a big interception and a sophomore bat two passes away to seal it. The defense saved this one."
Hartselle, 1-0, will enter region play this week when they host the Curry Yellow Jackets on Sept. 3 at 7 p.m.