Not always pretty
Tigers' defense makes up for inconsistent offense in 23-9 win over region foe Curry
Justin Schuver, Hartselle Enquirer
JASPER – It might not have been the prettiest game ever for the Tigers, but last Friday's 23-9 victory over Curry was a win on the road against a region opponent. Their coach will take that anytime.
"Obviously we would have liked to have played better, but I thought we played well enough to get a win," Hartselle coach Bob Godsey said. "We gotta go back to work now."
Hartselle's defense was especially strong in the game, keeping Curry's offense bottled up early and often. The Yellow Jackets managed only nine points of offense against the Tigers.
"Outstanding (by the defense)," Godsey said. "Coach Peck had a great plan for them and it was just outstanding. I'm glad they were, because we made a lot of mistakes on offense to last a lifetime. But we scratched up enough to win as well."
The Yellow Jackets, who were 0-7 in region play in 2004, gave Hartselle fits early in the game – taking an early 3-0 lead on a second quarter field goal and frustrating the Tigers' offense. Josh McGinnis' interception of a Wes Chenault pass gave the Jackets excellent field position and led to Curry's field goal.
The Tigers responded in a big way, returning the subsequent kickoff in a bizarre play that resulted in a chorus of boos from the home team's stands.
The kick was short, and linebacker Travis Clemons appeared to try and signal for a fair catch before the ball landed in his hands. But the referee never blew a whistle and Clemons took advantage, taking the kickoff 70 yards for a Hartselle touchdown with 8:11 left in the half.
"I was just standing there, I was backing and up and saw the ball coming," Clemons said. "I tried to fair catch it, and when I caught it I didn't hear a whistle, so I just ran."
The return energized the Tigers defense, which did not allow Curry to pick up a first down for the rest of the half.
Hartselle padded its lead just before the half, with a 10-play drive that culminated with a three-yard touchdown pass from Chenault to senior Chase Taylor. Ray Canafax's extra point gave the Tigers an 11-point lead with 48 seconds remaining on the clock.
Curry's only touchdown of the game came on defense about midway through the second half. Hartselle managed a long drive that ate up several minutes of clock time, but on the seventh play of that drive running back Montrel Murphy fumbled the ball at the Curry 15. McGinnis was johnny-on-the-spot, picking up the loose ball and racing down the sideline for the 85-yard return, but Curry's PAT was blocked. The Tigers had three turnovers inside the Curry 30-yard line in the game.
"We knock those couple in and it's a whole different ball game," Godsey said of the turnovers. "We didn't, and we gave them points because of turnovers. Other than that, our defense did a good job..
"On offense we had the two fumbles inside the 10, and you've got to finish those drives."
The defense shone all night, but no brighter than when Johnny Jones tackled Curry running back Kyle Miller inside the endzone for a safety at 2:40 of the third quarter. Miller, who had over 250 yards in his team's opening game against Carbon Hill, was held to just 46 yards by the Tiger defense.
Murphy closed out Hartselle's scoring with 8:02 left in the game, taking a handoff from Chenault and outrunning the Curry defense 70 yards for a touchdown. Murphy, who rushed for 250 yards against Austin, had 189 yards on 27 carries last Friday.
The Tigers take their 1-0 region record on the road to Russellville Friday. The No. 2 Golden Tigers defeated Brewer 43-20 and are 2-0 on the season.
Hartselle's Jake Bradford was shaken up at the end of the first quarter and had to come out of the game.
"I think he's been battling some of the same type deal with his knee," Godsey said. "Unfortunately it looks like he's going to be out for a while so we've got some guys who need to step up."