HARTSELLE — The Hartselle Tigers would not be denied Friday night at J.P. Cain.
A berth in the Class 6A state playoffs was at stake when the Decatur Red Raiders came to town.
Hartselle took all the drama out of the evening with a quick start that led to a 49-7 victory over arch-rival Decatur.
The win puts Hartselle (3-4, 2-2) in the playoffs. If the playoffs started today, the Tigers would be the No. 4 seed in Region 7, but Hartselle does have one more region game next Friday at Cullman. A Hartselle win over the Bearcats would move the Tigers up to the No. 3 seed.
“We got hungry for the end zone last week and we just kept it up tonight,” Hartselle senior running back Brinten Barclay said. “We came ready to play.”
Barclay had a night to remember. He had 25 carries for 211 yards and two touchdowns on runs of one and six yards.
Junior quarterback Cal George had four touchdown runs of one, three, 19 and five yards. Last week in a 76-0 win over Columbia, he ran for two and passed for four.
Hartselle’s final touchdown came on an 85-yard interception by sophomore Dev Turney on the first play of the fourth quarter.
“When we play like we are capable of playing, we can be a pretty good team,” Hartselle head coach Bo Culver said.
According to the Alabama High School Football Historical Society website, it was Hartselle’s largest margin of victory over Decatur since a 51-0 win in 1922. Hartselle also beat Decatur 42-6 in 1981.
Decatur leads the series 59-27, but the last 10 games have been split 5-5, with Hartselle winning the last two.
Barclay pounded the Decatur defense for 181 yards in the first half. A lot of his yardage came after first contact. Most of it came from runs between the tackles. Leading the way up front were Alston Hampton, Mac Harrison, Ryan Garrison, Bryson Holt and Zane Stinson.
“Our offensive line has been a work in progress,” Hartselle offensive line coach Chad Gladden said. “They got after it tonight.”
Hartselle got the ball to start the game and turned it over on a fumble at its 45. Decatur had to punt after three plays. Then came a run of Hartselle touchdowns. The Tigers scored on their next three possessions to lead 21-0 with 11:30 left in the second quarter. That was before Decatur had a first down.
The Red Raiders showed some spark late in the second quarter when quarterback Grayson Vermeire hit Reed Harbin on a short pass. The senior receiver turned it into a big play when he raced down the sideline for 47-yard touchdown to make it 21-7.
George’s 19-yard run with 36 seconds left in the first half made it 28-7 at halftime.
The third quarter was more of the same. Hartselle scored on its first two possessions on a five-yard run by George followed by a six-yard run by Barclay.
“Hartselle is a very good football team and we are not,” Decatur coach Jere Adcock said. “They are a greatly improved team and they took it to us tonight.”
Decatur (1-7, 0-4) closes out region play Friday when Columbia visits Ogle Stadium for homecoming.