GAME OVER: Golden Tigers fall to Alexandria Cubs to crush state hopes
Russellville, led by Coach Mark Heaton, came into this third round playoff game hosting a hungry Alexandria Valley Cubs team that traveled into Tiger Stadium last Friday for a win-or-go-home game that came down to the wire. Alexandria squeaked out a close 22-14 win in a 16-point quarter by the Valley Cubs.
“I hate for it to end because I wanted such big things for this team,” Heaton said. “I know this is big, but, man, we wanted to get back to Tuscaloosa for the first time since 2009. I think everybody did.”
Friday night’s loss was tough to take in for Heaton’s team, which was in firm control for three quarters, taking a 14-6 lead into the fourth with everything on the line.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think we were the better football team,” Heaton said. “I think we are. But we made so many mistakes in the first half that kept us from getting the points we needed to take full control of the game, and anything can happen.”
The Golden Tigers started off with the game’s first score when record-setting senior RB Deyon Hill took a handoff five yards in for the touchdown with 4:07 left in the first after a big fourth and one conversion kept the drive alive.
Russellville’s defense made a lot of plays in the first half, keeping Alexandria’s offense out of sync.
The Valley Cubs got a late score punched in before the half when RB Kennan Woodruff ran in a six-yard touchdown run but decided instead of tying the game to risk going for two – a decisions that failed and gave Russellville a crucial 7-6 lead going into halftime.
Hill would came out in the second half and improved Russellville’s lead to 14-6 after his second touchdown of the night with 6:28 left to go in the third quarter to give the Golden Tigers some breathing room.
The Golden Tigers seemed to keep things going in their favor all game long but lost all control when the Valley Cubs stopped the Golden Tigers, forcing them to punt, giving them the ball back with little over five minutes left in the game.
The Golden Tigers’ defense has made big plays and big stops all year long when they needed it the most but couldn’t finish the game this time as they were outscored 16-0 in the final quarter, and the Valley Cubs got the game-winning touchdown on their final drive as Woodruff busted off a 53-yard run and two-point conversion to put Alexandria up 22-14 with less than a minute left in the game.
Russellville tried to pull off another miracle like they did in the first round, with Nichols getting off a pass to senior J.J. Johnson, who lateraled it back to Colin Garrison, who gained 17 yards to help give Russellville a big fourth and 16 conversion to keep them alive. But after an eventual Hail Mary lofted shy of the end zone was intercepted by the Valley Cubs, it ended the Golden Tigers’ seven-game win streak Super Seven hopes, giving Alexandria a big 22-14 win to advance.
“Hats off to Alexandria. They made some big plays at the end of the game, and that’s what it came down to,” Heaton said. “Our guys fought hard and gave us a chance to win at the end with a positive shot but fell short. This one is tough. It hurts. But we will get up in the morning and will get back to work Monday.”
The Golden Tigers (11-2) gave the community a season to remember.
Senior RB Deyon Hill finished Friday’s game with 172 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 24 carries. His 2,331 yards from scrimmage and 31 combined total touchdowns rushing and receiving are both school records, breaking former Golden Tiger and Crimson Tide back Brent Calloway’s previous marks of 2,150 and 29 touchdowns set back in 2010.