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Enquirer photo/Jim Meadows No. 32 Brinten Barclay avoids an Athens tackler at the five-yard line as he finishes a run for the Tigers’ first touchdown.

Hartselle falls to Athens for first time in 13 seasons

For the first time since November 2006, the Athens Golden Eagles defeated the Hartselle Tigers on the football field.

Friday night’s matchup was the 20th time that these two rivals have met since 2002. The Tigers have won 17 of the previous 19 games.

The last time the Golden Eagles defeated Hartselle was 13 years ago. That night the two teams met in the third round of the Class 5A playoffs with a berth in the semifinals on the line. The Golden Eagles won by a score of 23-13 on their way to a state championship.

Friday Athens converted two Hartselle turnovers into 14 points, which helped lead the Golden Eagle to a 28-19 victory.

The Golden Eagles got on the board first, as they converted a Cal George interception into points. Athens got the ball at the 42, drove downfield and scored on the first of two Jordan Scott touchdown runs. 

With 6:32 left in the first, Athens led 7-0.

Hartselle started its second possession at the 28-yard line following the Athens kickoff. It looked as if the Tigers would go three-and-out after picking up four yards on three plays. 

On fourth down, Cade Wylie lined up to punt but caught the Golden Eagles off guard with a fake punt run for 46 yards to give the Tigers a shot of momentum – and the ball on the Athens 22-yard line. The Golden Eagles’ defense held tough and forced Hartselle to kick a 28-yard field goal. With 1:48 left in the first, Hartselle cut the lead to 7-3.

Following an Athens three-and-out, the Tigers took over on their 43-yard line. The Tigers drove downfield behind the arm of George, who was three-of-four for 33 yards, and the legs of Brinten Barkley, who had three carries for 19 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown run. 

With 9:12 left in the second, the Tigers took a 10-7 lead.

Athens would take the lead back for good following a 36-yard touchdown run by Scott. The run was set up by a 15-yard punt return to give the Golden Eagles excellent field position at the 36 of Hartselle. 

With 5:45 to go in the second, Athens led 14-10.

The Tigers got the ball to start the third quarter used a 14-play drive to cut the lead to 14-13 following a 24-yard field goal by Brian Munoz. 

George had 48 yards on five carries while Barkley had 30 yards on seven carries. Hartselle held onto the ball for nearly seven minutes to open the second half.

The Golden Eagles came out to start their first possession in a formation they did not show in the first half – a full-house backfield with Scott and three running backs. The Golden Eagles went on a quick five-play 80-yard drive, highlighted by Julius Mayberry’s 49-yard touchdown run to give Athens a 21-13 lead with 2:28 to go in the third.

On Hartselle’s ensuing possession, the Tigers went three-and-out and were forced to line up and punt from their 26-yard line. Hartselle attempted its second fake of the game, but this time the Golden Eagles were ready for it and forced Wylie out of bounds following a five-yard gain.

Following the Tigers’ turnover on downs, Athens started its next possession on the Hartselle 31-yard line. The Golden Eagles’ Jaelen Cates scored on a five-yard run with 11:54 to go in the fourth to give Athens a 29-13 lead.

On the Athens kickoff, Ian Bodine broke off a 29-yard return to the Hartselle 42-yard line. 

On the return, Athens was flagged for a 15-yard facemask penalty, which moved the ball to the Athens 43-yard line. Following the play, Athens’ head coach Cody Gross picked up an unsportsmanlike penalty that would tack on another 15 yards and move the ball to the 28-yard line. 

Following a third Athens’ penalty, the Tigers’ George scored on a one-yard run. 

Hartselle went for two and failed when Athens stopped Barkley in the Tigers’ backfield. With less than 8 minutes to go in the game, Hartselle cut the lead to 28-19.

Following a Tigers’ kick out of bounds, Athens took over at the 45-yard line, looking to close out the game. On the first play, Scott fumbled the ball, and Hartselle’s Ryan Langston recovered, giving the Tigers the ball at their 48-yard line.

Hartselle got a 26-yard completion to Jayce Dubose to move the ball to the 22-yard line and give the Tigers excellent field position. Barkley picked up nine yards on two carries, but Athens forced the Tigers to go for it on fourth down. 

The Golden Eagles sacked George for a 10-yard loss to give Athens the ball with 5:05 left.

With Hartselle out of time outs, the Golden Eagles ran seven plays to run the clock out and give them their first victory over a Hartselle Tigers team since 2006.

Hartselle finished the game with 234 yards rushing on 47 carries, while Athens finished with 265 yards on 42 carries.

Star of the Game

  • Brinten Barkley finished with 134 yards on 23 carries and one touchdown.

Next Week

Hartselle (1-2) will host No. 3 Muscle Shoals (3-0) at J.P. Cain Stadium. The Trojans are coming off a 62-0 victory over Columbia.