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Decatur High's Chris Coffey (7) outruns Russellville's Demorian Abernathy (61) in Decatur's 24-23 overtime victory on the road Friday.
Courtesy photo
Decatur High's Chris Coffey (7) outruns Russellville's Demorian Abernathy (61) in Decatur's 24-23 overtime victory on the road Friday.

Decatur stops
No. 2 team

In overtime, Red Raiders hand Russellville its first region loss in seven years

By Brooke Milam
bmilam@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

RUSSELLVILLE — No current Decatur High football player ever had been in this position:

Overtime.

And to top it off, the Red Raiders were facing powerhouse Russellville. The No. 2-ranked team in Class 5A. Unbeaten in Region 8. On the Golden Tigers' home field.

Despite all that, Decatur cashed in a 24-23 victory by virtue of a missed extra point. The win broke Russellville's streak of 46 straight region wins.

In the overtime period, Russellville scored first, and as Josh Montgomery tried the extra point, Decatur senior kicker Michael Schuster knelt down in a catchers' position on the far end of the sideline and watched.

Montgomery missed, leaving the door open for the visiting Red Raiders.

"Once he missed it, I jumped up," Schuster said. "This was another step toward a region championship, and I knew I had to make it."

Two play later, Decatur matched Russellville's overtime touchdown, and Schuster's extra point sailed perfectly through the uprights to lift ninth-ranked Decatur to a win over Russellville.

The victory put Decatur (6-1, 5-0 in Region 8) all alone on top of the region standings. Russellville fell to 5-1, including 4-1 in the region.

Junior Cory Dodson caught the 7-yard touchdown pass from sophomore Ben Neill to set up Schuster's game-winning extra point.

It was Dodson's sixth touchdown of the year, but he said it was by far his biggest.

"It was big to come down here and win with all the hype," Dodson said. "Everybody wanted to see this game."

Schuster agreed that his extra point, as routine as it was for the second-year varsity kicker, was the most exciting of his career.

"I've never had one come down to that," Schuster said.

Head coach Jere Adcock said that for Decatur's entire team, this win was like no other. And that's a considerable statement, since the Red Raiders have knocked off then-No. 1 J.O. Johnson and defending state champion Athens this year.

“Playing a team as good as Russellville is, as well coached as they are and highly ranked as they are, makes this big,” Adcock said.

“They’ve been the team to beat — the marquee team. They’re the team you want
to play to see how good you
are.”

Russellville had not lost a region game since 2000, and while Decatur seemed an unlikely candidate to knock off the reigning region champions coming into the season, the Red Raiders proved they have re-invented themselves from the team that missed the playoffs a season ago.

“I thought we played really well on both sides of the ball tonight,” first-year Russellville coach Doug Goodwin said. “They got off to a bad start last season, but they were a good football team last year. We knew coming in it’d come down to the end, and it did.”

After a scoreless first quarter, Neill connected with senior Justin Bishop for a 29-yard touchdown pass that gave the Red Raiders a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter.

Russellville responded with Kory Suggs’ 1-yard run that tied the game at 7 with 5:20 to play in the half.

Schuster kicked an 18-yard field goal with one second left in the second quarter, and Decatur led 10-7 at halftime, but Russellville did all the scoring in the third quarter.

Slowed by an injury that has been described as a deep thigh contusion, senior tailback Michael Abernathy was not at full speed and saw limited action in the game after missing last week’s win over Athens.

Abernathy played every other drive in the first half for Russellville and finished with 32 yards on eight carries.

Still, the 6-foot-0, 225-pound Abernathy’s impact was felt.

With the game tied 10-10 midway through the third quarter, Abernathy’s 2-yard touchdown run gave Russellville a 17-10 lead heading into the fourth.

“We were hunting in the third quarter, and we really hit a lull,” Adcock said.

“They were putting a lot of pressure on us, and I was real proud of the way we played in the fourth.”

With 3:21 left in regulation, Decatur’s David Martin zig-zagged through 11 Russellville defenders and found the end zone on a 29-yard touchdown pass from Neill. Schuster’s extra point tied it at 17.

Russellville’s ensuing drive failed to score as a 46-yard field goal attempt was wide left, and with 1:17 to play, Decatur couldn’t get close to try a field goal for the win in regulation.

In overtime, both teams began on the 10-yard line in accordance with the Alabama High School Athletic Association handbook. Russellville scored on Suggs’ 8-yard run, putting Russellville up 23-17 and placing the Red Raiders in a must-score situation.

After Neill’s 3-yard run on the first play from scrimmage, Dodson said he knew the ball was coming his way.

“I liked the call, and that they had confidence in me,” Dodson said. “I knew they’d block for me. It was a big play.”

Schuster’s extra point brought the Red Raiders’ student section on the field, and it wasn’t the first time this year Decatur fans have had reason to rally around their team.

“We’ve had a lot of big wins this year,” Adcock said.

“To me, the biggest thing about tonight was winning in overtime. That’s something that these guys have never had the chance to do, and we made some big plays at some critical times to do that.”

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