Tigers defeat Center Point in first round of playoffs
Hartselle battled from behind on two different occasions to pull out a 28-18 win over Center Point to advance to the second round of the 6A playoffs.
“We struggled offensively against a talented defense early on,” Hartselle coach Bryan Moore said. “But we found some things later in the game where we could exploit their defense.”
The defense struggled in the first half, giving up two big scoring plays that allowed Center Point to take a 12-10 lead into the half.
The Tigers took their first lead with 7:53 left in the second quarter when Lincoln Bryant scored on a 3-yard run to put Hartselle up 7-6.
Hartselle extended their lead to 10-7 on a Noah Yates 32-yard field goal with 2:32 left in the first half.
The Eagles retook the lead with 2:11 left in the half when they connected on a 65-yard pass to take a 12-10 lead into halftime.
The Tigers grabbed the lead early in the third quarter when Ri Fletcher capped off a 61-yard drive with a 14-yard touchdown run with 9:19 left in the third quarter. Hartselle pushed their lead to 18-12 when Noah Lee hit Markus Tapscott for a two-point conversion.
Center Point tied the game with 5:58 left in the third when they scored on a 23-yard touchdown pass to cap a 74-yard scoring drive.
Hartselle took the lead for good with 3:52 left in the third quarter when Jace Preuitt intercepted a Center Point pass and returned it 58 yards for a touchdown to put the Tigers up 25-18.
“I was trying not to get tackled after intercepting the pass. I wanted to get to the endzone,” Preuitt said. “We didn’t play our best game tonight but survived and advanced.”
The Tigers extended their lead to 10 points when Hartselle used a 14-play drive that took over eight minutes off the clock. The drive was capped off with a 25-yard Yates field goal to make the score 28-18.
The Hartselle defense came up with a couple of big plays to force a Center Point turnover on downs. The biggest play was a tackle for a 12-yard loss by Cole Miles.
Fletcher had 61 yards rushing, a touchdown and 65 yards receiving to lead the Hartselle offense.
“Ri is the ultimate competitor,” Moore said. “He battled tonight just as he has done all season long. He wants the ball no matter how he feels.”
Lee finished with 105 yards passing with a touchdown and an interception.
Ja’kaleb Goodwin had an interception, while Jake Haynes had 10 tackles. Miles had eight tackles with three for loss. Porter Simmons had seven tackles and two for loss.
The Tigers (9-2) will travel to Gadsden City next Friday. The Titans defeated Gardendale 44-16.
“It is a trip that we have made before, so it is nothing new,” Moore said. “They are a great team that we were fortunate to defeat earlier this season. We are going to have to be better to win and advance.”