Golden Tigers to face Alexandria Friday at home
By Brannon King for the FCT
The Russellville Golden Tigers got off to a great start and then finished the game strong to defeat the Parker Thundering Herd, 41-21 in the second round of the Class 5A football playoffs Friday night in Birmingham.
Russellville (11-1) jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead before Parker’s offense ever took the field, and the Golden Tigers led 20-0 after only two Parker offensive snaps.
The Parker team was only able to get their points in the second half, and they did so by scoring twice as a result of successful fake punts (one for a touchdown and the other kept a scoring drive alive) and after getting the ball because of a Russellville fumble.
The Golden Tigers got big contributions from a number of players. Deyon Hill had 207 yards rushing and four touchdown carries (another potential TD run was whistled dead as he lost his helmet just before crossing the goal line) plus a two-point conversion run. Quarterback Payton Nichols completed his first 10 pass attempts and only had two incompletions in the game. Colin Garrison had one TD catch and a big fourth-down conversion grab. He also added a great over-the-shoulder interception and a fumble recovery. JJ Johnson added two interceptions of his own in the victory for the strong Russellville defense.
“Offensively, I thought finally we got clicking a little bit and started moving the ball and had some big plays. Defensively, our guys did a tremendous job,” Russellville Head Coach Mark Heaton said. “We gave up a couple of fake punts that hurt us. We have to go back to work and fix that … but I’m very proud of them, and it’s a big night for Russellville, and we’re glad to be back in the quarterfinals.”
The Golden Tigers got on the board first when Nichols found Garrison for a 25-yard TD pass. Then Sid Willis recovered a short kickoff that couldn’t be handled by Parker. Cameron DeArman later scored on a 2-yard touchdown run to add to the Russellville lead.
It didn’t take long for Russellville to get the ball back. Connor Stults recovered a fumble this time to set up Deyon Hill’s first TD of the game, and with 3:37 remaining in the first quarter, the Golden Tigers were up 20-0.
Early in the second quarter, the large Golden Tiger crowd that occupied the visitor’s side of Major Brown Memorial Stadium was filled with concern as Russellville’s Logan Jones was injured and was taken off the field turf on a stretcher. Jones gave a thumbs-up as he was being taken toward the ambulance, and Heaton shared immediately after the game about his condition. “He’s doing fine. All of his tests from the hospital came back normal, so he’s doing good,” Heaton said.
Playing with the skyline of Birmingham and the Vulcan statue off in the distance in the background, the Thundering Herd got to within 13 points of the Golden Tigers in the third quarter, before interceptions by Colin Garrison, Marvin Betancourt and JJ Johnson helped put the game away for Russellville.
The Golden Tigers will return home for the next round of the playoffs, which will be against Alexandria Friday night in the quarterfinal round.