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Hartselle Enquirer

Tigers turn it around on offense

By Staff
Justin Schuver, Sports Editor
Last Friday night's win was truly a cathartic one for a Hartselle offense that had trouble finding the end zone in its first three games. With their 54 points Friday at Muscle Shoals, the Tigers scored more than twice the total number of points they had in their first three losses (21).
Hartselle's running game also showed the spark expected by the Tigers before the season began. Hartselle's 305 rushing yards against Muscle Shoals was almost more than the Tigers managed on the ground in their first three games of the season (356 total rushing yards).
Quarterback Luke Bole also tripled the number of passing touchdowns he's thrown this season after dealing out two touchdown passes against Muscle Shoals – a pass to Tony Weaver against Decatur was Hartselle's only previous touchdown through the air.
Even the defense got into the scoring game when Josh Slaten intercepted a Collin Bradford pass and returned it 35 yards for Hartselle's final touchdown. All told, the Tigers found the end zone eight times against the Trojans after scoring just three touchdowns in their first three games.
Can Hartselle keep the offense going Friday night? They face a tough opponent in undefeated Cullman that has allowed its opponents just 10 points per game. Here's what I think will happen in the Hartselle-Cullman matchup and other games of interest.
Hartselle Tigers (1-3) at Cullman Bearcats (4-0): On paper, this looks like a pretty tough game to pick. Cullman is 4-0 and has outscored its opponents 157-40 so far, but that number is somewhat misleading. Two of those wins were blowouts over bad football teams – a 50-0 waxing of winless Hanceville and a 45-12 win over 1-3 Curry. The Bearcats do have a 35-7 win over 3-1 Walker to their credit, however. The Tigers will travel to Cullman with all the confidence in the world after scoring at will against Muscle Shoals, but obviously the Bearcats will provide a tougher test defensively than the Trojans. By the same token, Hartselle is probably the toughest defense Cullman has faced this year, as well. Hartselle is especially strong defensively against the run, which is the hallmark of the Bearcats' offense this season. This has all the makings of a nip-and-tuck rivalry game that should be close to the very end. Turnovers could be a major factor in the outcome…Tigers 21, Bearcats 17.
Hayden Wildcats (0-4) at Brewer Patriots (2-2): It has been a long time since Brewer has been this much of a favorite in a football game.
The Wildcats are a winless team and not one of their games has been competitive – the average final score has been 46-5. The Patriots are riding high after a 21-7 win over West Point, and as long as they don't come into Friday's game too overconfident Brewer should move to a winning record halfway through the season…Patriots 31, Wildcats 14.
Danville Hawks (0-4) at Priceville Bulldogs (1-3): Like Hartselle, the Bulldogs are certainly a better team than their 1-3 record indicates. Priceville had to endure a rough opening schedule that included three road games and contests against perennial powers East Limestone and North Jackson. The Hawks were impressive in a late comeback against Vinemont last week, but the Bulldogs should pick up their first home win of the season…Bulldogs 31, Hawks 14.
Vinemont Eagles (3-1) at Falkville Blue Devils (3-1): This is another tough game to pick. Last season's meeting was a 33-6 win for the Eagles in Vinemont, which is just 10 miles away from Falkville. But the Eagles had difficulty with Danville last week, a team that Falkville beat pretty handily. I think the difference in this game might be Vinemont's running game, which was strong with senior Ryan Woljevach leading the show and should be even more potent after freshman Eli Harris' breakout game against Danville (two touchdowns)…Eagles 27, Blue Devils 24.
Alabama Crimson Tide (3-1) vs. Florida State Seminoles (2-1): Alabama could probably win this game by doing just one thing – put pressure on Florida State quarterback Drew Weatherford. When Weatherford is hurried, the Seminoles' offense grinds to a halt, but if given time Florida State's receivers are talented enough to make plays against the Crimson Tide's defense. The problem is that Alabama's pass rush has been non-existent this year, with the Tide last in the SEC in sacks and unable to put pressure on a Georgia offensive line that featured three freshman starters (including two true freshmen). The major question mark is Florida State's all-world linebacker Geno Hayes, who is suspended "indefinitely" after being involved in a campus bar fight last Friday. If he doesn't play, it makes Florida State's defense much weaker – but Saint Bobby isn't one to sit talented starters in a game of this magnitude…Seminoles 20, Crimson Tide 17.
Auburn Tigers (2-2) at Florida Gators (4-0): All of a sudden, a game that looked at first like a Gator blowout suddenly looks a lot closer. Not only did Auburn's offense wake up last weekend, but Florida's defense looked astonishingly bad against Ole Miss, allowing 390 offensive yards to a team that came into the game averaging just 255 yards per contest. True, it's not likely Florida's defense will play as poorly in front of their home fans in The Swamp Saturday. Still, the Tigers have enough to hang around for a while, before Florida pulls away and gets revenge on the only team that beat the Gators in last year's national championship season…Gators 27, Tigers 17.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (0-4) at Purdue Boilermakers (4-0): Purdue's Curtis Painter is just the latest in a group of quarterbacks that have put up big numbers in coach Joe Tiller's high-powered "basketball on grass" offense. The junior has already thrown for 16 touchdowns and just one interception to help Purdue off to a 4-0 start, although those wins have come against very weak competition. Still, the hapless Irish haven't been able to do anything right, other than managing some semblance of a running game against Michigan State last week. Purdue's defense has been shaky, allowing 31 points and 469 yards to a terrible Minnesota team in their last game. Notre Dame's only real chance of winning this game is to keep the score low, but Painter and his talented receivers won't allow that to happen…Boilermakers 38, Fighting Irish 20.

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