Hartselle defense stymies Walker’s attack
The Hartselle defense responded with a pair of interceptions and a fumble recovery in the second half to send the fourth-ranked Tigers to a 10-7 victory over No. 7 Walker.
“Our defense was outstanding all night,” said Hartselle head coach Bob Godsey. “We’ve just got so many young guys that haven’t been through a war like this. We had a lot of guys grow up tonight. For a lot of them, this was their first war, their first battle. I hope it’s just the first of many, many more.
“I think we got better from this game. If nothing else, I hope we got a little tougher.”
Hartselle improved to 3-0 in Class 5A, Region 6 where the Tigers now have a one-game lead in the standings over Walker, Cullman and Mortimer Jordan.
Walker dropped to 2-1 in region play and 3-1 overall.
The Vikings’ only points in the game came on a kickoff return in the first half. The Tigers’ defense didn’t allow Walker’s offense to score in the game and extended their streak to eight quarters without allowing an offensive touchdown.
“We had a real good feel for what Walker was trying to do,” said Hartselle defensive coordinator Larry Peck. “We made plays when we had to make plays and that’s what it’s all about. That’s what we look for from our guys. They made some big plays tonight.”
Hartselle threatened several times to jump in front to a big lead, but the Tigers found ways to keep ending potential scoring drives with penalties or turnovers.
The Tigers drove to the goal line early in the game but two costly penalties forced them to settle for a Gavin Marsh field goal.
“Moving the ball wasn’t an issue for us, getting points was the issue,” Godsey said. “You have to give Walker some credit for that. We were able to move the football some and limit their opportunities and come up with enough points to win it.
“We probably gave a clinic on how to move the football and not score points. Walker stiffened up down there. We were a penalty or one block or one cut from getting some points. It was just so close, but that’s the way it is in games like this.”
Fossett finished with 64 yards rushing on 15 carries before he was sidelined in the second half. He spent the rest of the game on the bench with an ice pack on his shoulder.
Jordan Orr added 46 yards on 10 carries in Fossett’s absence.
Hartselle took the lead in the second quarter after a drive deep into Walker territory sputtered and Gavin Marsh nailed a 28-yard field goal for the 3-0 advantage.
It didn’t last long.
Jaquese Kirk, headed for Louisville next season, took the kickoff from Marsh and went 95 yards for the touchdown and a 7-3 Walker lead.
Hartselle had a chance to cut into the lead late in the second quarter after driving to the Walker 1 before penalties pushed the Tigers back.
Marsh’s field goal attempt went wide right and the Vikings’ lead stayed at four points.
The miss was just the first of the season for Marsh, who is 16-of-16 on extra points and has hit two of his three field goal attempts.
The Tigers got the ball back one more time in the first half and reached the Vikings’ 7-yard line before Will Lang was stopped short of the end zone as time expired.
Hartselle regained the lead with 5:07 remaining in the game when Lang hit Jordan Orr with a 15-yard touchdown pass.
The Hartselle defense made sure the narrow lead would stand up by causing a trio of turnovers.
Jackson Reeves intercepted a pass on the Vikings’ next possession to keep Walker in check and Sidney Steele recovered a fumble to stop another Vikings’ possession.
Hartselle turned the ball over two plays later on a fumble, but Walker was unable to take advantage of the miscue.
Walker drove to the Hartselle 32-yard line before Dax Gillespie stepped in front of a Max Young pass at the 19-yard line to give the Tigers’ offense the chance to run the clock down.
“That was just a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Gillespie said. “I was in a man (defense) and I knew they were going to go deep. I was just in the right place.”
Young was in the game in relief of starter Carson Roberts, who suffered a concussion on a hard hit earlier in the fourth quarter and he did not return to the game.
Lang picked up a critical first down on a third-and-4 play to seal the win.