Lee steps in for injured Blackwood and leads Tigers to 31-28 win over Gadsden City
Noah Lee, who has primarily been a receiver for Hartselle this season, stepped under center following an injury to quarterback Landon Blackwood right before halftime and led the Tigers to a 31-28 non-region win over Gadsden City.
“Lee made a huge throw to Markus in a difficult spot, which tells us everything we need to know about his talent,” Hartselle coach Bryan Moore said. “He came in the game in a difficult situation and performed admirably.”
Gadsden City opened the game with a long drive capped by a one-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead.
The score remained 7-0 until early in the second quarter when Noah Yates connected on a 19-yard field goal to cut the lead to 7-3.
Hartselle took their first lead of the game when Ri Fletcher scored on a 24-yard run to make the score 10-7. Gadsden City responded with a 55-yard screen pass for a touchdown and a 17-14 lead.
After Blackwood was injured after a run and a fumble near midfield, the Tigers were forced to punt and give the ball back to the Titans. Yates hit a near-perfect punt downed at the four-yard line.
On Gadsden City’s first play, the Tigers’ defense overwhelmed the Titans’ offensive line and hit the running back in the endzone, where he fumbled the ball. Jace Preuitt came out of the pile with the ball for a Tigers’ touchdown and a 17-14 lead heading into halftime.
“Our defense stepped up, and I was able to make a play and strip out the ball and recover it for a touchdown,” Preuitt said.
Gadsden City retook the lead with a four-yard run early in the third quarter and a 21-17 lead.
The Tigers responded with a long drive led by Lee and Lincoln Bryant. Bryant capped off the drive with a 12-yard touchdown run for a 24-21 lead.
The Hartselle offensive line took over the game late in the third quarter and early in the fourth, with the Titans gearing up to defend the run. Lee led the Tigers on a drive that took over seven minutes and was capped off by his 2-yard touchdown run to give Hartselle a 31-21 lead.
“The offensive line play was imposing,” said coach Moore. “Everyone knew what we would do, yet we could run the ball successfully thanks to our offensive line.”
Gadsden City cut the lead to 31-28 with 4:57 remaining in the game.
Lee and Hartselle responded with a drive that ran out the clock to take the three-point win. There were two drive-saving plays to help take the time off the clock. The first came with the Tigers stuck on their side of the field, but Bryant broke through the Gadsden City line and raced for a 38-yard gain and a first down. The second play came on the game’s final play when Hartselle faced a fourth and seven with 35.5 seconds remaining. Lee threw a back-shoulder pass to Markus Tapscott for a first down that ran out the clock.
“It hurt me to see Landon go down,” Lee said. “We need what we had to do in the second half, and the team responded with two huge scoring drives in the second half to get us the win.”
Fletcher led the Tigers with 117 yards rushing and a touchdown, while Bryant added 106 yards and a score. Blackwood had 70 yards passing and 22 yards rushing before his injury. Lee finished with 50 yards passing, 22 yards rushing, 17 yards receiving and a touchdown.
The Hartselle defense held Gadsden City to 84 rushing yards and 273 total yards.
The Tigers (4-1) will host Oxford (5-0) on Friday.
“Oxford offers us another difficult challenge this week,” Moore said. “They are an excellent passing team who can score some points. Playing them helps prepare us for the rest of the season and the postseason.”