Hartselle ties game with 4th quarter FG, but gives up late TDs in loss to Russellville
Justin Schuver, Hartselle Enquirer
RUSSELLVILLE – It only took one play for Hartselle to go from being on top of the world to seeing their hopes of a monumental upset all but dashed.
Junior Ray Canafax's 31-yard field goal with 4:44 left in the game made the score 6-6 and sent the Tigers' sideline and fans into a frenzy.
But Russellville's Rodney Suggs put a dagger in the hopes of the Hartselle faithful, returning the ensuing kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown. The Golden Tigers would add another score later in the game to make the final a disappointing 19-6 loss.
"When you play in games like this it comes down to four or five plays, and they made them and we didn't," Hartselle coach Bob Godsey said. "We talked about that all week. It's not like there wasn't any guy in a white shirt who didn't want to make a play or any guy that didn't try to, it just happened that way. We came up a little short, but we've got a bunch of them down the road and we're going to keep firing away."
It was a disappointing finish to a game that showed the Tigers have the ability to compete with anyone. The No. 2-ranked Golden Tigers (3-0, 2-0) were held to just 245 yards of total offense, and only 62 yards rushing, by the Hartselle (2-1, 1-1) defense.
The loss drops Hartselle's record against Russellville to just 3-19-1 since the schools began playing each other in 1951. The Tigers also failed in their hopes of winning three straight road games to start the 2005 season. Hartselle plays six of its remaining seven games at J.P. Cain Stadium.
"The good thing is we get to go home for a change and we're excited about that," Godsey said.
Both teams starting off the first quarter strong defensively, playing to a scoreless tie after 12 minutes. Hartselle missed an early chance to score when Canafax was wide to the left on a 42-yard field goal try late in the quarter. Canafax finished the game 2-for-3 on his field goals, including perfect from less than 40 yards.
"Those first couple of times we put (Canafax) out there the kicks were bombs, and we told him, if he hit one of those great," Godsey said. "But he hit two big ones – he was pretty much automatic from 30 yards or less. That was a big pressure kick there to tie the game for us, and it's unfortunate that we couldn't (win the game)."
Russellville took an early lead with 5:43 left in the second quarter when quarterback Jeremy Helms found Trenton Thorne for a 9-yard touchdown pass. But the shaky Golden Tigers' kicking game, which was only 1-for-7 on extra points in the team's 43-20 win over Brewer, resurfaced once again as Hartselle's Caleb Blanton got free to block the extra point.
Hartselle cut the lead in half with a 38-yard field goal by Canafax with 2:46 left in the quarter. The kick was set up by several big plays, including a 20-yard run by quarterback Wes Chenault and a 13-yard run by running back Montrel Murphy.
The Tigers' running game, which has been a key component of the team's offense this season, picked up 139 yards on the ground. Murphy was the team's leading rusher, with 88 yards on 23 carries.
In the third quarter, the defenses again stood tall, allowing neither team to score. Hartselle took advantage of a key turnover in the fourth quarter to set up the tying field goal, when defensive lineman Steven Paulos picked off Helms' short pass at the Hartselle 32-yard line and returned it down to the Russellville 36 with 7:10 left in the game.
Four plays later, with the help of a 15-yard pass interference penalty against the Golden Tigers, Canafax kicked his second field goal of the game. Suggs returned the following kickoff, but Russellville failed in its attempt at a two-point conversion, giving the Tigers life with the score 12-6.
Hartselle's offense stalled on the following drive, forcing the Tigers to punt from their own 35-yard line. But a bad snap on fourth down forced Hartselle's Quinn Dunlap to fall on the loose ball at the Hartselle 7-yard line, giving Russellville excellent starting field position.
The Golden Tigers capitalized when running back Michael Abernathy rumbled in for a 7-yard touchdown on the very next play with 2:05 left in the game. The extra point was good.
Hartselle advanced as far as the Russellville 18-yard line on its last drive of the game, but Chenault was sacked on a fourth-and-10 try.
The Tigers face region opponent Walker Friday at J.P. Cain Stadium in Hartselle's home opener.