Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.|
Hartselle running back Montrell Murphy, left, and quarterback Luke Bole will help spearhead the Tigers’ offense as the team comes off an 11-2 season.
HIGH SCHOOL COUNTDOWN
This year’s Tigers look to duplicate last year’s team unity, winning ways
Thirteenth in a series
By Brooke Milam
HARTSELLE — When coach Bob Godsey looks around the Hartselle High locker room, he’s sees a lot of holes to fill. A lot of holes left by 21 seniors who will go down as one of the grittier, determined and spirited groups Hartselle has had.
There weren’t many teams hotter than the Tigers last season, as they fought their way to an 11-2 record, falling to eventual state champion Athens in the quarterfinals.
But when Godsey glances over his roster this year, he sees a lot of the same potential in his current crop.
“You work every day to achieve the chemistry and the kinds of things we had at the end of the year last year,” Godsey said. “I feel like this team is talented.
“But can we achieve the kind of team unity we had last year? Only time will tell. We’ve passed all the tests up to this point, but we’ve got a long way to go.”
Despite the losses from last year’s roster, the well is not dry in Hartselle.
“We graduated some awfully good guys and their togetherness is what made them special,” Godsey said, “but we do return some good players. We’ve got a good nucleus.”
Godsey said he didn’t see the team unity that Hartselle became known for last year until midseason “around game five or six” in wins over Cullman and Brewer.
Hartselle returns six starters on offense and five on defense, but at least 11 seniors played key roles last season.
And although Godsey said this may be one of the most talented teams he’s had in his five seasons at Hartselle, it again will be a solid group effort rather than individually dominated performances.
“We’re going to be mean — I know that after the last couple of practices,” senior receiver Tony Weaver said. “We’re really going to pull together as a team.”
The best news for the Tigers is the return of two 1,000-yard rushers in the backfield. Last year’s leading rusher Marquez Jones is back for his junior season after rushing for a team-high 16 touchdowns last season. He will double as a defensive back. Also, senior Montrell Murphy, the fire power of Hartselle’s offense from 2005, is back. He rushed for 1,800 yards two years ago before sitting out last season.
Weaver said that with a lot of experience returning in the running game and key losses in the passing game, opponents may be expecting a one-sided ground attack from the Tigers.
“People are probably thinking since we lost (leading receiver) Tyler Young and (quarterback) Wes Chenault that it’s over in the passing game, but that’s not true,” Weaver said. “I know it’s a big roll to fill.”
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.|
Hartselle defensive end Robby Reece tries to get around offensive tackle Michael Hasse during a recent practice.
Weaver caught 27 passes last season for 376 yards and four touchdowns and will try to connect often with Luke Bole, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound junior. Bole will start at quarterback after playing free safety last year.
“He’s done everything he could possibly do to have a good year,” Godsey said. “We feel good about Luke. He makes good decisions, and all the physical tools are there.”
Stabilizing the offense will be a line that Godsey named as one of the team’s strengths this year. Three starters return, including three-year starters Russell Powell, a junior center, and senior tackle Caleb Murphy. Two-year starter Kramer Southern, a 6-4, 280-pound junior, is a college prospect at guard. Junior Michael Hasse will also line up at tackle for the Tigers after starting two games last year as a sophomore, and senior Micah Laughmiller and junior Jeremy Thomason are both ready to contribute at guard.
The Tigers’ defense was hit hard by graduation, but senior Michael Reed, the team’s second-leading tackler from last season, will return at linebacker after posting 113 tackles last year.
Senior Brad Borden and junior David Reeves, who is coming off knee surgery, will provide depth at linebacker. Identical twins Marquez and Manquez Jones will start at defensive back.
Last year’s playoff run sparked excitement in the always enthusiastic Hartselle community and this season’s schedule features the usual rival-filled agenda.
And it’s the memories of last year, of a senior class that banded together, that will drive the Tigers this season.
“We’re on that roll and we just want to keep that hype up,” Burgess said.
“I don’t think it’s died down yet.”
Hartselle High at a glance
Last year: 11-2. Lost in the Class 5A state quarterfinals to eventual state champion Athens 23-13.
Head coach: Bob Godsey (32-14 in four seasons at Hartselle; 74-29 in nine years as a head coach).
Noteworthy: Last year Hartselle’s dream season ended at home in the state quarterfinals with a loss to Class 5A, Region 8 rival Athens. The Tigers had beaten the Golden Eagles 35-31 in the regular-season meeting at Athens — a win that put the Tigers in the playoffs. ... With the graduation of Decatur Daily all-area and all-state kicker Ray Canafax, the Tigers lost the luxury of a kicking game that gave Hartselle a distinct advantage the past several years. Filling the void left by Canafax is senior Tyler Bennich, who like Canafax is a strong leg borrowed from Hartselle’s soccer team. Bennich is coming off knee surgery after a torn ligament suffered after kicking a 39-yard field goal in a win over Brewer on Oct. 6 last season.
Hartselle High schedule, results
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|| at Decatur (R)
||at Muscle Shoals (R)
||at J.O. Johnson (R)
||West Point (R)
|| at Huntsville
|vs. Muscle Shoals
|vs. J.O. Johnson
|at West Point
|vs. Benjamin Russell
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