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Russellville play-off run ends in Birmingham

The challenging but successful 2020 football season came to an end Friday night for the Russellville Golden Tigers at Birmingham’s Legion Field. Russellville took on Ramsay in the quarterfinals of the AHSAA Class 5A playoffs and fell to the top-ranked, undefeated Rams by a 54-14 final score.

A pandemic and a two-hour drive didn’t stop Golden Tiger fans from outnumbering the opponent’s supporters in the stands, but Ramsay clearly had the better team this year. Russellville finished the season with a 10-3 record, while Ramsay will play Pleasant Grove in the semifinals.

The two teams traded punts after their first possessions to begin the contest. On the second Russellville drive, Ramsay intercepted a third-down pass and later cashed it in for the game’s first score with an 18-yard touchdown pass.

After a Russellville punt late in the first quarter, Ramsay scored again. This time, the Rams found the end zone on a 75-yard pass to grow the lead to 14-0.

On the first play of the second period, Russellville’s Conner Warhurst broke free and looked to be heading in for a score, but he came up just short on a 75-yard gallop. Warhurst got the ball on the next play but fumbled it into the waiting hands of a Ram defender.

Nine plays later, Ramsay scored on a one-yard run to make the score 21-0 with 8:07 to go in the first half.

The Golden Tigers looked to catch a break on their next possession when the Rams had too many men on the field on fourth down. A couple of plays later, Ramsay hit Russellville quarterback Gabe Amick, and he fumbled the ball over to the Rams. They ran it in for a TD to go up 27-0.

After the following kickoff, the Golden Tigers got the ball on their own 40-yard-line, and Amick found TJ King for a 60-yard touchdown pass. The first of two Cristhian Cano extra-point kicks in the game was good, and the Golden Tigers trailed 27-7 with 5:34 left in the second quarter.

Ramsay quickly answered with a touchdown pass that covered 44 yards, followed by a one-yard run for another TD to make it 41-7 at the half.

The Rams added an 11-yard scoring pass and a 40-yard throw-and-catch for another score in the third quarter. Russellville continued to battle until the final whistle, and the Golden Tigers scored the final touchdown of the night when Boots McCulloch found the end zone on a 20-yard run with 40 seconds remaining in the game.

“They are better than us. People don’t like to admit stuff like that,” said Russellville head coach John Ritter. “But I thought we had an excellent season. I’m very proud of our seniors, very proud of everybody involved, because this has been a tough year, and the fact that we persevered through it all and had a great year is a testament to our guys.”