Hartselle puts end to streak
By By Todd Thompson, Hartselle Enquirer
RUSSELLVILLE - Craig Orr had been waiting almost a year to get back on the football field.
Hartselle had been waiting 27 years for a win over Russellville.
So when Orr scooped up a fumble after a crushing hit by teammate Daryn Raley and Hartselle went on to a 24-14 win over No. 1-ranked Russellville, its first win over the Golden Tigers since Hartselle turned the trick in 1981 during the second round of the state playoffs.
Hartselle now faces the daunting task of facing a second unbeaten and top-ranked opponent this week when the Tigers travel to Cordova to face a team that has won 19 straight games, including the Class 3A state championship game last season.
But few, if any, were thinking about the Tigers’ week five opponent as Hartselle players and fans celebrated the win that ended a string of 13 straight losses to Russellville.
The win spoiled the debut of a $281,000 video scoreboard with instant replay at Russellville Stadium. There were few highlights for the home fans as Hartselle dominated the game on both sides of the football.
Hartselle improved to 4-0 overall and 3-0 in Class 5A, Region 8 play. Russellville fell to 3-1 and 2-1.
When the Tigers needed the big play, they turned to Orr, who had been sidelined for three games after the Alabama High School Athletic Association ruled he had not made a bona fide move to the school system last fall.
It didn’t take Orr long to make an impact in the game. He stopped Jake Ward with a powerful hit at the line of scrimmage on Russellville’s first play of the game.
But it was his return of a fumble for a touchdown in the second half that kept Hartselle fans watching for the instant replay on Russellville’s new 10-foot by 8-foot scoreboard.
Marquez Jones rushed for 134 yards on 28 carries for Hartselle. He now has 520 yards in four games this season.
Jones gave Hartselle the early lead when he capped a 71-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. The short plunge gave the Tigers’ senior eight touchdowns in four games.
Jones had six carries during the drive and added a 6-yard reception from Bole.
The opening possession took almost eight minutes off the clock as the Tigers used 11 plays to reach the end zone.
Hartselle got the ball right back after holding Russellville to just minus-1 yard of total offense on three plays.
After a 21-yard run by Jones, Bole threw completions of 14 and 33 yards to get Hartselle back into the end zone on the way to a 14-0 lead.
Howard finished with nine catches for 90 yards in the win and would have added more to the total if he hadn’t been called twice for offensive pass interference.
Hartselle added a 20-yard field goal by Dylan Stephenson eight minutes into the second quarter for the 17-0 advantage that left Russellville’s stands uncomfortably silent.
The team that had scored 136 points in its first three games of the season ran just 11 plays in the opening half.
Hartselle piled up 230 yards of total offense on its first three possessions.
Russellville’s offense, based around a strong passing attack, was kept in check by Hartselle. The Golden Tigers managed just 60 yards of total offense in the game.
Russellville took advantage of a Hartselle miscue on special teams by partially blocking Bole’s punt on fourth-and-8 from the 15 with 3:56 left in the half.
Casey Herring pulled in the kick and returned it 20 yards for Russellville’s first touchdown to trim the margin to 17-7.
The touchdown was the first allowed by Hartselle since Chelsea scored in the closing seconds of the season opener at J.P. Cain Stadium.
Hartselle had a chance to add to the lead with a 37-yard field goal by Jonas Meixner, but a penalty overturned the play.
Russellville climbed back into the game in the third quarter with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Joey Howe to Jake Ward midway through the third quarter, but the Golden Tigers could get no closer.
Just four plays into the fourth quarter, Howe was hit on an option play by Daryn Raley and the ball popped up into the arms of Orr, who went 50 yards for the final score.