For eighth-consecutive year Golden Tigers host first round game
As the season began, many fans felt this would be the year the Russellville football program would begin to decline after several years of success.
Ten weeks later, however, the Golden Tigers are in familiar position – hosting a first-round playoff game.
"We've prepared the same," said Russellville coach Doug Goodwin. "A win in the playoffs is like other games, except if you lose you are out."
The Golden Tigers will welcome the No.-3 seed from Region 7, Fort Payne, for a battle of team that have reached at least the second round of the playoffs the last two seasons.
Goodwin said a pair of Wildcat players – Akeem Appleton and Blake Smith – has caught his eye as potential threats to the Golden Tiger defense.
Appleton has 64 rushes for 355 yards and eight touchdowns while also pulling in 32 passes for 441 yards and four additional touchdowns.
Smith, a senior who is a first-year starter on offense, has rushed the ball 68 times for 659 yards and six touchdowns and has caught 32 passes for 607 yards and eight touchdowns.
Another threat on offense is sophomore quarterback Kyle Crabtree.
Running a spread offense, Crabtree has completed 118 of 230 pass attempts for 1,421 yards and 13 touchdowns. He is also a threat to run, gaining 431 yards on 78 rushes.
"He is agile," Goodwin said. "He runs as good as he throws."
Goodwin said the Wildcats also have a big offensive line similar to Hartselle's.
While the offense features several players that can score, the defense has a handful of playmakers as well.
Smith, who has started on defense for the past three seasons, has recorded 71 tackles and four interceptions.
Linebacker Skylar Jackson has 100 tackles and linebacker Seth Dodd has 98 tackles.
"Their defense is real aggressive," Goodwin said. "They blitz a lot to put pressure on the quarterback."
Though Fort Payne is the third seed in Region 7, the Wildcats would have been the No.-1 seed, but Scottsboro upset them during the final week of region play.
The Fort Payne roster is full of players with plenty of winning experience. Though they are 7-3 this year, the Wildcats finished the regular season with 10-0 records the previous two years.
In 2006 and 2007, they reached the second round of the playoffs.
Goodwin said he told his team not to get too worked up heading into the game.
"I told them to play one play at a time," Goodwin said. "If they don't win a play, win the next play. If you win enough plays, the game will take care of itself."