REGION CHAMPS Golden Tigers soar to 5A title in Friday nailbiter
By Brannon King for the FCT
The Russellville Golden Tigers went to Moulton and defeated the Lawrence County Red Devils to clinch the 5A Region 8 title, but it was anything but easy.
Russellville quarterback Payton Nichols connected with Deyon Hill for a six-yard touchdown pass with 15 seconds remaining in the game to give the Golden Tigers the 18-13 victory.
Lawrence County (4-4, 3-3) managed to grab a 13-12 lead midway through the fourth quarter, but the Golden Tigers (7-1, 6-0) later took advantage of good field position gained after a snap went over the head of the Red Devils’ punter.
“I’m very proud of the way they fought and found a way to win the football game there in the end,” Russellville head coach Mark Heaton said. “We made a lot of mistakes, and we missed some opportunities early, and I felt like that hurt us. Lawrence County played every second and gave us a fight.”
Lawrence County got on the board first when Dallas Keenum found Trey Hutto for a 14-yard TD pass. Nathanial Ford kicked the extra point to make the score 7-0.
The Golden Tigers answered right back on the following drive when Nichols found Colin Garrison for a long 70-yard touchdown pass. The extra point attempt was blocked, and the Red Devils held a slim one point lead with 1:55 remaining in the opening quarter.
Russellville’s Garrison picked off a Lawrence County tipped pass in the second quarter, but the Golden Tigers couldn’t turn it into points, later going for it on fourth-and-one on the Red Devils’ 14-yard line.
The Golden Tiger defense later forced a punt to set up a chance for a scoring drive just before the half. Nichols hit Marvin Betancourt on a 14-yard throw and catch, and then Nichols found Garrison for an 11-yard gainer. Then the drive stalled after three straight incompletions and a missed 42-yard field goal attempt that fell short as time expired in the first half.
Trey Hutto of Lawrence County looked to start off the second half with a bang by running back the kickoff for a score, but he stepped out of bounds on his way to the end zone. The Red Devils did start the drive from the Russellville 30-yard-line, but the defense held strong with the help of a Jared Thornton sack of the Lawrence County quarterback.
The Russellville offense then turned to Deyon Hill to get things going near the end of the third quarter and the early stages of the fourth. Hill found the end zone on a 15-yard TD run to finish off an 11-play drive in which he had seven carries. The Golden Tigers then lined up as to kick the extra point, but a bad snap stopped the try from developing, and the Russellville lead was 12-7.
Lawrence County took advantage of Russellville penalties and a successful ground attack of their own to regain the lead on a five-yard touchdown run by Keenum on fourth down. The Red Devils faked the extra point kick, and Russellville stopped the run, and the score was 13-12 in favor of Lawrence County with 6:56 to go in the game.
Russellville failed to convert on fourth down on the following drive. The Red Devils went three and out, leading to the snap over the head of the Lawrence County punter, which set up the game-winning Russellville drive.
The Golden Tigers took over at the Lawrence County 17-yard line and turned to the combination of Hill and Nichols to grab the win. Hill picked up a crucial fourth-down conversion with a run with 58 seconds remaining, and two plays later, Nichols found Hill for the decisive touchdown.
Russellville will finish out the regular season with two home games, the first of which will be against St. John Paul II.