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Russellville season ends with play-off loss at Scottsboro

Russellville and Scottsboro battled it out on the football field in the first round of the AHSAA Class 5A playoffs, and the Golden Tigers came up short, losing to the Wildcats 17-14.

The two schools entered the contest with equal 8-2 records, and both were known this season for strong ground games on offense and stingy defenses.

Both lived up to their reputations, playing a throwback type of a game on a cold November night in Scottsboro.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Wildcats struck first with a three-yard touchdown run by quarterback Jacob Manning. SHS added the extra point and took the 7-0 lead.

Russellville’s following possession led to a punt, but for the second time in the game, the Golden Tigers failed to turn a Scottsboro special teams mistake into points.

This time the Wildcats lost the ball to RHS on the kick return; earlier in the game, Scottsboro set Russellville up with great field position on a botched snap on a punt attempt. The Wildcats held the Golden Tigers out of the end zone in both instances.

With less than a minute remaining in the first half, Jacob Bishop found freshman receiver TJ King for a pass completion, and King did the rest, making a couple of defenders miss on his way to a 65-yard touchdown for Russellville.

Miguel Flores added the PAT kick, and the score was tied.

Scottsboro then ran the ball to the RHS 20-yard line on three straight rushes, but a 37-yard field goal attempt came up short at the end of the half.

The Wildcats got the ball to begin the second half and put together an 11-play drive consisting of 10 running plays and an incomplete pass; they failed to get any points on the possession.

A short punt set RHS up, and it only took Airreon “Boots” McCulloch two carries to put his team on top. His touchdown run was of 54 yards, and with 4:24 remaining in the third quarter, Russellville had grabbed a 14-7 advantage.

The Wildcats, however, didn’t stay down long. The ensuing kickoff was returned to the RHS 23-yard line, and on the next play, Manning found Brandon Cloud for a TD pass.

The extra-point kick was good, and the score was tied.

After a three-and-out by the Russellville offense, Scottsboro then went to work on an 18-play drive; the possession lasted from near the end of the third quarter until 4:57 to go in the fourth. A 26-yard field goal by freshman kicker Joannes Du Croo De Jongh was the result, and the Wildcats took the three-point lead they would need for victory.

Even after the Golden Tigers fell behind, they didn’t give up. A first-down sack pinned RHS back to its own 7-yard line. Bishop then launched a long pass, and Peyton Ray showed good concentration and caught the ball on a rebound. He got down to the SHS 28 before being brought to the ground.

A false start on Russellville followed, and the Wildcats stopped the threat with an interception by Cloud.

RHS managed to force a Scottsboro punt by stopping the run and using timeouts, but the Golden Tigers ran into the kicker with about a minute to go in the game to give the Wildcats a first down, sending SHS into victory formation and the second round of the playoffs.

The Russellville season came to an end Friday night, but Russellville head coach John Ritter said he was proud of his team’s effort.

“I’m very proud of this senior group,” he said. “They played with a lot of pride, they played with a lot of class, and they played with a lot of heart.”

Ritter also shared his thoughts about some of the mistakes that were costly in the team’s try for the win. “We had the kick return that led to a touchdown right after we go up 14-7 then mistakes there at the end of the game,” he said. “It’s a killer, and you can’t do that in the playoffs.

“I’m very, very proud of our guys. They played extremely hard – just came up a little short.”