Weathering the storm
Hartselle defense comes up strong in rain-delayed 14-0 win over Walker
Justin Schuver, Hartselle Enquirer
The play of the teams was similar to the condition of the field – sloppy.
The Tigers' opener was delayed 45 minutes because of inclement weather that turned J.P. Cain Stadium into a mud pit and sent Hartselle fans scrambling for cover. The conditions affected both teams in a turnover-riddled contest, but the home-standing Tigers finished with a shutout in front of their fans.
Hartselle's defense came up strong in a 14-0 win over region foe Walker Friday at J.P. Cain Stadium. The Tigers (3-1, 2-1 in Region 8) scored just once on offense, but limited Walker's (2-2, 1-2) opportunities and took advantage of a key Viking turnover to seal the victory.
With 4:18 left in the third quarter, and Hartselle already holding a 7-0 lead and the Vikings pinned on their own 8-yard line, Walker's center tossed the snap over the head of quarterback Josh Walls. Walls tried to fall on the snap, but the ball squirted away and into the endzone, where senior linebacker Johnny "Moo Moo" Jones recovered the loose ball for a touchdown.
"On the fumble recovery, Caleb Blanton did a great job," Jones said. "He sealed the running back off. That allowed me to get through and get to the ball for the easy touchdown.
"(The Hartselle defense) did well. They did really good. Everybody was focused, everybody was physical. We had a great game, everybody did a really good job."
The Tigers' defense was dominating all night long, holding the Walker running game to just minus-three yards. The Vikings collected 105 yards passing, but never even managed a trip into the redzone on the way to being shut out.
Fittingly, Walker's final play from scrimmage resulted in a sack by Jones.
"It's a big win. I'm just proud of our young men," Hartselle head coach Bob Godsey said. "You've got a rain delay, you've got some turnovers, and it was a recipe for disaster but these guys would not let it happen. We beat a good football team, and it's a good win for us, and unfortunately with the schedule we have we don't get to enjoy it very long because we've got to get ready for the (Decatur) Red Raiders."
The Tigers used a varied rushing offense to wear down the Viking defense and maintain time of possession. Sophomore running back Montrel Murphy finished with 168 yards on 31 carries, but freshman running back Marquez Jones had a productive night as well with 62 yards on 15 carries.
Quarterback Wes Chenault added 27 yards on seven carries, and scored the only touchdown of the game with a 1-yard sneak with 11:12 left in the second quarter. The junior attempted just five passes, with his lone completion an 8-yard toss to senior Hunter Corum in the first quarter.
The game was a constant stream of turnovers and sloppy play, with neither team managing many sustained drives in the sloppy field conditions. The Tigers' lone scoring drive spanned 10 plays and began on the Hartselle 34-yard line.
"We played our defense and had some good ball control, we just have to do a little job taking care of (the ball)," Godsey said. "And (we need to) punch in those few opportunities we had early – some penalties and missed assignments and things like that. We're going to keep working on it, but we're going to get there."
A bright spot on a dreary night was sophomore kicker Tyler Bennich, who was thrust into action after normal starter Ray Canafax was injured during the week. Bennich was true on both extra points for the Tigers,
"(Bennich had) never kicked in a varsity game he did an outstanding job," Godsey said. "I'm really, really proud of him.
Hartselle faces Decatur (4-0) Friday night at J.P. Cain Stadium. The Tigers will try to become the first team since 1985 to be Decatur City champions and defeat both Austin and Decatur.