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franklin county times

Top-ranked teams square off in Russellville

By Staff
Mike Self FCT Sports Editor
When the Alabama Sports Writers Association released their preseason high school football polls a month ago, both Russellville and Deshler were ranked No. 1 in their respective classifications.
One of those teams will have a very brief stay at the top.
The Golden Tigers, No. 1 in Class 5A, and the Tigers, No. 1 in Class 4A, will meet tonight in Russellville in a game that means nothing as far as each team's region race is concerned but everything when it comes to bragging rights.
"It's important, because at the end of the night one of us isn't going to be number one anymore," Russellville quarterback Cory Trapp said.
Golden Tiger coach Perry Swindall said tonight's game also carries major implications as a measuring stick for each team, rankings aside.
"Obviously, anytime you play in a well-publicized game, it's important," said Swindall, who is 5-3 against Deshler in his career at Russellville. "At the beginning of the season, being No. 1 is pretty much up for grabs to whoever can get the most votes. But this game is important because it's a great measuring stick for us.
"If we can beat a team like Deshler, we know we're headed in the right direction. The same goes for them if they can beat us. At the same time, a loss to Deshler doesn't mean we can't have a good season. We've proven before that we can lose to Deshler in the first game and still bounce back to achieve a lot of our goals."
In both 2003 and 2004, the Golden Tigers suffered season-opening losses to Deshler and then didn't lose again until the Class 5A state championship game. On the other hand, Russellville opened last season with a convincing 32-16 win at Deshler but then failed to reach the Super Six after being upset by Buckhorn in the state semifinals.
Regardless of what transpires the rest of the season, tonight's game will forever be etched into the memories of those who participate.
"It's a great rivalry," said Casey Morgan, Russellville's senior defensive lineman. "We've played each other every year for a long time now, and we're both usually pretty good. This is one of those games you start talking about in the offseason. Whatever else happens, you gotta beat Deshler."
The Golden Tigers will be favored to do just that, given that Deshler is in reload mode following their third consecutive loss in the Class 4A state championship game.
Swindall cautioned that just because the visiting Tigers are young, it doesn't mean they're not dangerous.
"Deshler has some new, young faces on the field, but they're still a very solid football team," he said. "They're young, but they're good. If they come in and play really well and we don't, then we'll have a very hard time beating them."
Russellville also has some new faces in key places, including under center where Trapp will make his first career start at the varsity level.
"It's been a tough week, but I think everybody on offense is ready to go," said Trapp, who threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score while completing 11-of-16 attempts for 130 yards in last week's jamboree against Oneonta. "It's a little different being the starter. You have to concentrate more on every rep. Every snap means something."
Trapp will have the luxury of operating behind a strong offensive line, and he does have a couple of experienced offensive weapons at his disposal. Junior running back Mike Abernathy totaled 93 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in last year's win over Deshler, and junior wide receiver Caleb Mitchell caught a game-breaking 70-yard touchdown pass early in the second half.
The Golden Tigers also have an experienced front seven that will be tested by Deshler's vaunted running attack.
"They still run the Wing-T, and they're pretty good at it," Morgan said. "We just have to be ready to stop it."

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