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SATURDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2007
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Changes, Jaguars thwart Hartselle

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

HUNTSVILLE — The Hartselle Tigers brought a whirlwind of emotions to Goldsmith-Schiffman Field on Friday to face J.O. Johnson in a contest that changed days and venues more than once this week.

It was originally scheduled for Thursday night at Goldsmith-Schiffman, but weather pushed the game to Friday at 4 p.m. at Huntsville's Milton Frank Stadium. But a conflict with another postponed game forced the site to be switched back to Goldsmith-Schiffman fewer than 24 hours before kickoff.

If Hartselle coach Bob Godsey wondered how his players would respond to such setbacks, he got the answer he was looking for Friday. Even though his Tigers fell 37-21 to J.O. Johnson, ranked No. 10 in Class 5A, he appreciated his team's effort.

"The fact that they came out as hard as they did today shows they can get ready to play," Godsey said. "I'm proud of our guys. Make no mistake about it — they played as hard as they can play."

Hartselle (3-5, 3-3 in 5A, Region 8) needs a region win over West Point on Friday to secure a top-four finish in the region and a spot in the playoffs. J.O. Johnson (6-2, 4-2) has wrapped up at least a fourth-place finish in as it faces Athens next. The top four teams in each region advance to the playoffs.

“We came out strong and got up, but they’re a very talented football team and they just out-athleted us down the stretch,” Godsey said. “Johnson is probably going to end up being third in (the region), but if you talk to anybody, they’ll tell you that’s the most talented team in our region.”

On Friday, Hartselle jumped out to a 14-0 lead with three minutes to go in the first quarter, but didn’t score again until the fourth. J.O. Johnson put up 23 unanswered points, tying the game in the second and going ahead 17-14 midway through the third. The Jaguars never trailed after that.

J.O. Johnson coach Harold Wells said it was no surprise his team trailed early to underdog Hartselle. In fact, Wells said his team had prepared for a tough fight from the visiting Tigers based on several recent high-scoring performances in Hartselle’s region wins over Muscle Shoals, Brewer and Athens.

“We saw them on film ... 55 points (against Muscle Shoals),” Wells said. “We knew they could score and we knew we had to be on top of our game. Our game plan was to stop the run, because they’re pretty potent in the running game. We did a pretty good job in that. We didn’t stop them, but we contained them, and that’s what we had hoped to do.”

The Tigers gained only 95 yards, but junior quarterback Luke Bole found the end zone twice on quarterback keepers of 9 and 4 yards. Bole also hit junior Braddock Wilson for a 35-yard touchdown pass on the Tigers’ first possession of the game.

“Luke has gotten better every week, and playing against these guys here tonight, he did some good things,” Godsey said.

In the second quarter, Hartselle got its first taste of Jaguars senior running back Jimmy Vaughn. He scored on a 24-yard run in the opening seconds of the period to pull Johnson within 14-7. He scored again on a 1-yard run with 3:13 left before halftime, tying the score 14-14 at the break.

DeMario McNeal’s 19-yard field goal with 7:20 left in the third gave the Jaguars their first lead at 17-14.

Timothy Jenkins caught a 60-yard pass from David Isabelle with 3:11 left in the third, increasing J.O. Johnson’s lead to 23-14.

Needing a spark, Hartselle recovered a Jaguars fumble on the 31-yard line with 1:19 to go in the third. It began a drive that ended in the fourth with Bole’s 4-yard touchdown run. That cut the advantage to 23-21.

But the Jaguars didn’t let up. Isabelle completed an 8-yard touchdown pass to Travian Pruitt for a 30-21 J.O. Johnson lead. Isabelle then scored on a 14-yard quarterback keeper with 3:29 left for the final points.

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