Defense shines in Golden Tigers 20-14 win over Walker
Russellville head coach Michael Jackson has repeatedly said that his Golden Tiger defense could develop into a special unit.
That could be closer and closer to becoming reality.
One week after posting its first shutout of the season, the Russellville defense forced five turnovers in a 20-14 win over the Walker Vikings Friday night.
Russellville built a 20-2 lead and held on late for the win, improving their season record to 3-2 and gaining an important tiebreaker win in case they need it after region play.
The Golden Tigers recovered two fumbles in the first quarter, one each by Judd Ward and Corey Beckwith. Beckwith’s recovery set the Golden Tiger offense up at the Walker 20 yard line but they were not able to move the ball far after that.
Clay McNatt kicked a 31-yard field goal to give Russellville a 3-0 lead with 11:06 to play in the first half.
The Golden Tiger defense then held the Vikings and forced a punt that netted a one- yard loss, giving Russellville great field possession at the Walker 40 yard-line.
Seven plays into the drive, quarterback Zack Garrison found Reed Smith for a 17-yard touchdown pass.
McNatt’s PAT gave Russellville a 10-0 lead.
Though the senior kicker consistently pinned the Vikings with deep kickoffs and a tremendous punting night, as well as hitting two long field goals, McNatt’s biggest plays of the evening came on big tackles following long Vikings’ returns.
McNatt made a shoestring tackle that prevented a Walker touchdown on the ensuing kickoff following Smith’s touchdown reception.
The Golden Tigers then forced a three and out but were unable to do anything offensively following a Walker punt that pinned the Golden Tigers at their own one yard line. Russellville found itself in a hole and surrendered a safety, which cut their lead to 10-2 with just over two minutes to play.
But one play after kicking the ball back to the Vikings, the Golden Tigers defense stepped up once again.
Jalen Scott stepped in front of a Walker pass and returned the interception 21 yards to the Vikings 24-yard line. After a big 16 yard gain by Deyon Hill, Garrison carried the Golden Tigers the rest of the way, capping the four play 24-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge with 36 seconds to play in the first half.
McNatt’s PAT gave Russellville a 17-2 halftime lead.
A 41-yard field goal with 3:18 to play in the third quarter extended the lead to 20-2.
Russellville finished the game with 168 yards of offense, with 117 of that coming on the ground. The defense gave up 268 yards, but capitalized on timely turnovers to stop key Vikings drives.
Walker quickly marched down the field and scored following McNatt’s second field goal to cut the lead to 20-8. Jesse Vincent picked off a pass breaking up the two-point conversion attempt.
The Vikings threatened again with just less than three minutes left in the game, but an Austin Kitterman interception stopped that drive.
Walker would score the game’s final points with a short touchdown run with 47 seconds left in the game.
Russellville plays a pivotal region game at Athens next week.