HARTSELLE — Playing like a team on a mission, the Hartselle Tigers whipped rival Decatur, 42-21, Friday night at J.P. Cain Stadium.
The Tigers used short touchdown runs by Ri Fletcher and Armahdeo Dunigan to build a 14-0 halftime lead.
After Decatur trimmed the lead to 14-7 on the first possession of the second half, Hartselle pushed the lead out to 27-7 only to see Decatur trim it to 27-21 with 7:16 to play.
Hartselle answered with two late touchdowns on a three-yard run by quarterback J.T. Blackwood and an 18-yard pass from Blackwood to Gage Roberts to set the final margin.
“We played well in spurts, but when you have a 27-7 lead, you can’t let the other team back in the game,” Hartselle head coach Bryan Moore said. “Don’t take anything away from Decatur, but we didn’t play up to our standard in the fourth quarter.”
The win was another step in a mission to knock off long-time rivals, take a region championship for the first time since 2018 and maybe even accomplish more.
The Tigers now have wins over neighboring rivals Austin, 29-0, Cullman, 35-14, and Decatur. The wins over Cullman and Decatur have Hartselle sitting 2-0 in Class 6A, Region 8. The Tigers host region rival Columbia next Friday.
Hartselle’s great start has served notice across the state. The Tigers are ranked No. 6 in Class 6A and ready to move up, if one of the five undefeated teams in front of them falters.
“That’s something to be excited about,” Moore said. “I’m really happy with what we accomplished in that area.”
In a game with many big plays, defensive back Coleman “Bull” Mizell may have had the biggest. With Hartselle up 21-7 in the third quarter, he intercepted a Decatur pass around midfield and returned it for a touchdown.
“I just read the play and jumped on it,” Mizell said. “When I caught it, all I saw in front of me was the end zone. It felt pretty special to take it all the way back.”
The 27-7 cushion was huge when Decatur scored two touchdowns to make it 27-21.
Hartselle has beat Decatur four times in a row. The last time the Tigers beat the Red Raiders four times in a row was from 1978-1981. Decatur still leads the series 59-29.
“Anytime we can trim the numbers in our favor, it’s a great feeling,” Mizell said.
Hartselle’s other touchdown came on a three-yard run in the third quarter by Dunigan.
Decatur’s touchdowns came on a one-yard run by Banks Dement, a two-yard run by Ryan Kirk and a 14-yard pass from Ellis Dickman to Jyron McDaniel.
The Red Raiders (0-4, 0-2) host Buckhorn next Friday at Ogle Stadium in another region contest.