Hartselle hangs on to defeat DecaturPublished 12:01am Friday, September 27, 2013
DECATUR – Hartselle’s defense found itself in a familiar position at Ogle Stadium in Decatur.
The Tigers (4-1) held a narrow 13-10 lead with 30 seconds to go, Decatur had the ball at the Hartselle 23, well within the field goal range of Decatur kicker Francisco Tirado.
The Red Raiders (2-3) decided to go for the win, but the Tiger defense wouldn’t allow it.
Sophomore Lane Anders stepped in front of the receiver at the Tiger 4 and intercepted Jackson Fite’s pass to preserve the win.
Hartselle coach Bob Godsey said his team kept fighting back through adversity all night long.
“Our defensive plan was based on having four or five defensive backs on the field, and one of them goes out in the first quarter. And now we’re scrambling,” Godsey said. “Instead of having to sprinkle in a sophomore or two, we’re playing two all night long. I’m just so proud of our guys that kept fighting and clawing. We just didn’t quit.
“They showed a lot of heart and a lot of character,” Godsey added. “It’s enough to make a fat guy proud.”
With the Tigers trailing 10-3 at the half, Hartselle turned to the ground game to turn the game around on offense. After a short punt by Decatur to start the second half, the Tigers grinded out an 11-play, 46-yard drive for a touchdown. All of the yards came on the ground.
Tanner Oakes capped off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown with 6:29 left in the third quarter. The senior preserved the drive one play earlier, recovering a fumble on the Decatur one-yard line.
Most of the Hartselle’s 187 rushing yards came via D’Andre Mack. He finished with 164 yards on 36 carries while having a reception for 18 yards.
“I’m so proud of D’Andre Mack,” Godsey said. “He had some bad vibes on this field the last time. The little ole guy ran it like a Trojan tonight and came up with some tough yards tonight.”
Mack and the offensive line kept drives moving throughout the third quarter. Following a Kris Doss sack to force a Decatur punt, a nine-play drive on the next series allowed Jack Waterman to give Hartselle its first lead on a 45-yard field goal at the 1:06 mark of the third quarter.
Waterman also hit a 24-yard field goal to put Hartselle on the board early in the second quarter.
That was all the Hartselle defense would need. Chase Gillott ended a Decatur drive early in the fourth quarter with an interception, which he returned deep into Decatur territory.
The Tigers couldn’t take advantage as Tay Hayes intercepted a pass at the Decatur 5 and returned it to midfield, where intended receiver Tobias Mitchell made a touchdown-saving tackle.
The defense led by Waid Miller turned the Red Raiders away, stopping Decatur for a three-yard loss on fourth-and-two at the Hartselle 30 with almost five minutes to play.
The lone Decatur touchdown came off a miscue in the special teams. A muffed punt midway through the first quarter led to Fite’s 35-yard touchdown pass to Aree Sharpley.
Then another 33-yard Fite pass to Devin Sanders led to Tirado’s 36-yard field goal to give Decatur the 10-3 lead at the half.
But Mack said no one panicked at halftime. They just made the adjustments they needed to win the game.
“The coaches always tell us in practice that the little things matter,” Mack said. “At halftime, they just told us that we missed a lot of the little things, like missing key assignments and whiffing blocks. And he talked to them said like, ‘we’ve got to step the game up. If we keep fighting and clawing, then eventually we were going to break one.’ And that’s what they did.”
The Tigers will return to J.P. Cain Stadium next Friday to take on Region 8 juggernaut Muscle Shoals, which as of Thursday night has yet to give up a point this season.