Golden Tigers lose important region face-off
By Brannon King for the FCT
The Russellville Golden Tigers faced off with Brooks Friday night in Killen in front of a packed E.D. Redding Stadium, and the Lions took the important Class 5A Region 8 battle 31-21.
Russellville came into the game unbeaten in region play, while the Lions had one region loss earlier in the season to Lee-Huntsville. The win by Brooks puts the Lions in the driver’s seat to claim Region 8 as newcomers to 5A.
Brooks scored first on their opening drive of the game after a Russellville drive stalled near mid-field. Quarterback Lake Spurgeon threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Lazarius Decatur, and the extra point kick by Joseph Gurley put the Lions up 7-0.
The Lions again forced RHS to punt on a 4th-and-one from the Golden Tigers’ own 35-yard-line, and five plays later, Brooks found the end zone again. Deondre Hampton scored on a six-yard TD run to give Brooks a two-touchdown lead.
Russellville fumbled the kickoff return to Brooks, but the defense later stopped the Lions on fourth down to get the ball back. On the seventh play of Russellville’s next drive and second play of the second quarter, Zaye Boyd scored for RHS on a six-yard TD run. Marvin Betancourt added the extra point to make it 14-7.
Just before the half, Russellville looked to add a score but came up empty. The drive looked promising when Payton Nichols threw to Colin Garrison for a 35-yard completion on first down. With just half a minute remaining in the quarter, Nichols found Devin Buckhalter for a big completion to move the chains on a fourth down. On the next play, Nichols threw to Bernard Phinizee to get the ball down to the three-yard-line of Brooks. After a couple of incompletions, one to stop the clock, Nichols scrambled and threw into the end zone to Garrison, but it fell incomplete as time expired in the first half.
The Lions (5-2, 4-1) only needed three plays to score to start the third quarter. Spurgeon found Decatur for their second TD throw and catch of the game on a 42-yard pass. Russellville then answered with a six-play scoring drive. Nichols had a big, 31-yard run on the drive to set up the score. Boyd scored on a 12-yard carry, and Betancourt added the PAT to make the score 21-14.
Russellville went for an onside kick, and Marvin Betancourt recovered his own kickoff to keep the pressure on Brooks. Two plays later, Russellville evened the score at 21-21 when Nichols threw to Boyd for a 43-yard touchdown pass followed by the PAT kick.
On the following Brooks drive, the Lions reclaimed the lead. Deondre Hampton carried the ball five-straight times before Spurgeon threw to Decatur for a 36-yard gain. Hampton scored from seven-yards-out on a TD run with 6:11 left in the third quarter.
Joseph Gurley intercepted a Russellville pass, and later he added a 37-yard field goal to finish the scoring to make the total 31-21 in favor of the Lions. Russellville’s Landon Ezzell recovered a Brooks’ fumble later in the final period of the game that saw a few turnovers and a large number of penalty flags.
“Brooks has got a great football team, and we knew that coming in,” Russellville Head Coach Mark Heaton said. “They played very well tonight. They executed, and they took advantage of our mistakes.
“We weren’t ready to play this football game. We had a terrible week of preparation and a lack of focus, and you can’t do that and play great football teams and win. That’s what happened to us tonight. That falls on me, but I assure you that it will not happen like this again. We’ll fix that,” Heaton added.
Next, Russellville will host the East Limestone Indians. It will be the last regular season home game of the season for RHS and will be senior night.