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Daily photo by Brennen Smith
Decatur High's Adam Gillespie, center, blocks Hartselle's Michael Reed (44) to clear some running room for Decatur's Ben Neill during the first quarter of the Red Raider's 31-14 victory at Ogle Stadium in Decatur on Friday.

Decatur whips Hartselle
Red Raiders ride big plays, confidence to victory

By Brooke Milam
bmilam@decaturdaily.com 340-2460

The Decatur Red Raiders changed a lot from last week's opening-week loss to Huntsville.

Clad in black jerseys a week ago, Decatur dressed in traditional red tops this time. But it wasn't just the color of the jerseys that was different Friday night when the Red Raiders hosted county rival and Class 5A, Region 8 foe Hartselle at Ogle Stadium.

Decatur scored a convincing 31-14 win, displaying the confidence, intensity and big plays that it lacked a week ago.

"I think we grew up both ways — on both sides of the ball," Decatur coach Jere Adcock said. "That set the course for a bunch of guys believing in themselves."

As Chris Coffey rushed for 181 yards and scored three touchdowns, Decatur (1-1) continued its home-field dominance of the Tigers.

Hartselle (0-2) hasn't won at Ogle Stadium since 2001.

"They cashed in, and we didn't," Hartselle coach Bob Godsey said. "We played hard, but not necessarily good at times."

It was Decatur's offense that set the tone.

Under sophomore Ben Neill's direction, the Red Raiders completed scoring drives of 99 and 66 yards in building a 14-0 lead.

Junior tight end Brooks Johnson got it started for Decatur, catching a 4-yard touchdown pass from Neill with 33 seconds left in the first quarter.

Decatur was up 7-0 after senior Michael Schuster kicked the extra point from Neill's hold.

It capped a 99-yard, 16-play drive for the Red Raiders, but more importantly, it provided momentum and a lead that Decatur never lost.

"That's the best drive I've seen around here in a long time," Red Raiders' offensive coordinator Kenny Morson said.

Decatur led 7-0 until Coffey's 22-yard touchdown run with 3:32 left in the third quarter completed a 66-yard scoring march for the Red Raiders.

"The team intensity was like we had something to prove," Coffey said.

Interceptions by Decatur senior Antwon Owens just before halftime and junior Will Dennis in the fourth quarter each ended Hartselle threats.

The Red Raiders also recovered a Hartselle fumble early in the first quarter on the 1-yard line to begin their first scoring drive.

"They moved the ball well, but we made some critical plays," Adcock said. "Our defense rose up and made some plays when they had to. And they played a lot."

The first four possessions of the fourth quarter went for scores.

Junior quarterback Luke Bole's 6-yard run early in the fourth provided Hartselle's first points. Senior Tyler Bennich's extra point pulled the Tigers to within seven points of Decatur's lead.

But Decatur didn't take long to answer. Coffey returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards into the end zone, and Decatur was ahead 21-7.

Bole completed a 31-yard touchdown pass to senior Tony Weaver midway through the fourth that again put Hartselle within striking distance, trailing 21-14 with 7:14 to play.

Again, Coffey responded. This time with a 70-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage.

Schuster's 40-yard field goal with 4:26 remaining iced the win.

"We've been through a lot the last year, and it was a proud night," Adcock said.

Decatur will travel to play J.O. Johnson at Huntsville's Milton Frank Stadium on Thursday at 7 p.m. Hartselle will host Russellville on Friday night at 7.

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