HAZEL GREEN — From the opening kickoff, it was clear that it was going to be the Hartselle Tigers’ night.
Freshman running back Ri Fletcher fielded the opening kick at the 15-yard line and ran it back for a touchdown to get the Tigers’ big night started. Hartselle didn’t let up, cruising to a 45-6 win over Hazel Green on the road in a Class 6A, Region 8 contest.
“When we won the coin toss, I took the ball, because we’ve been slow starting out,” Hartselle coach Bryan Moore said. “It was huge for us to start like that.”
Hartselle (6-3, 4-2) then added five points thanks to a 34-yard field goal by kicker Crawford Lang and a safety when a snap went through the back on the end zone on a Hazel Green (2-6, 0-6) punt.
Hazel Green then made it an 8-point game at 15-7, but Hartselle scored on a 15-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback John Blackwood to sophomore receiver Izayah Fletcher. Hartselle gained even more separation when Blackwood found fellow quarterback Parker Sawyer, a senior, for a 43-yard score.
“If I put the best 11 offensive players on the board, both of those kids are in that group,” Moore said. “I have to figure out ways to get them both on the field.”
Sawyer and Blackwood split time at the QB position with both bringing different skill sets. Sawyer’s versatility was on display as he would later catch another touchdown pass from Blackwood.
That came late in the third quarter when Hartselle led 38-6 after a five-play touchdown drive. Blackwood found Sawyer wide open for the 26-yard score to go up 45-6.
Sawyer said he thrives on being a jack-of-all-trades for Moore’s offense.
“As a quarterback, I know what all the linemen, running backs and receivers do already,” Sawyer said. “So, getting time at receiver wasn’t that big of a deal. I already knew the plays.”
Moore said it’s rare you find two quarterbacks who can both lead an offense and even more rare when one of them can be as effective at receiver as Sawyer can.
“He’s a big-time athlete,” Moore said. “I think he’s a college athlete and a college quarterback.”
The win gave Hartselle its second double-digit win over a region opponent in two weeks.
Hartselle will try to keep its winning ways up next week when it goes on the road against to play Buckhorn, which will be a must-win for the playoffs.
“Buckhorn is a really good team,” Moore said. “We were sloppy tonight, so we’ll have to play better.”