Confident Hartselle earns spot in playoffs
By Paul Stackhouse
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HARTSELLE — Hartselle High won a football game Friday night, and in the process, the Tigers dropped a big weight off their collective shoulders.
Hartselle recorded a 37-15 home win over West Point, clinching a state playoff berth. After beginning the season 0-3, the Tigers wrapped up fourth place in Class 5A, Region 8 with the victory. The top four teams from each region advance to the playoffs.
Afterward, head coach Bob Godsey talked about the qualities that allowed his Tigers (4-5, 4-3 in the region) to rebound from the slow start.
"Leadership, confidence and experience," Godsey said. "They showed up every day and worked hard, and because of that, they dug themselves out of a hole.
"I think there are a lot of teams that wouldn't have been able to do that. We've talked about how special this season would be if we made the playoffs. We have made the playoffs, and yes, it is something very special."
Early on, it appeared West Point (1-8, 0-7) was ready to provide a big challenge. The Warriors drove 53 yards on 11 plays on their first possession of the game and took a 3-0 lead on a 29-yard Cody Brunkenhoeffer field goal.
But the Tigers retaliated with a minute remaining in the opening period as junior quarterback Luke Bole forced his way into the end zone from 1 yard out for a 7-3
lead. That's where the quarter ended, and Hartselle never trailed again.
The second quarter belonged to Hartselle as the Tigers scored three touchdowns while keeping West Point from putting any points on the board.
Marquez Jones had a 5-yard touchdown run before Bole scrambled 8 yards to score his second touchdown of the game. Montrell Murphy capped the quarter with a 3-yard touchdown run.
Godsey gave his starters the rest of the night off for the remaining two quarters.
Murphy was all smiles following the game.
"This is my first playoffs," Murphy said. "I can't begin to tell you how excited I am. We've had our ups and downs and had to go through a lot of obstacles, but after that, we had the playoffs on our mind. With a lot of hard work, we reached our goal — making the playoffs."
Hartselle junior running back Nikko Stover brought the Tigers' fans to their feet on Hartselle first offensive play of the second half. Stover took a handoff and proceeded to run past the Warriors' defense for a 91-yard touchdown run.
Hartselle kicker Tyler Bennich finished the Tigers' scoring late in the third quarter with a 32-yard field goal and a 37-3 lead to end the period.
West Point managed two touchdowns against the Hartselle reserve players in the fourth quarter, but it wasn't enough.
Laterrick Williams was responsible for the two touchdowns as he scored on runs of 3 and 2 yards.
"I think a lot of people gave up on us early in our season," Bole said. "But we turned things around by not giving up on ourselves. We came together and started making big plays when we needed them.
"You might say the whole team stepped up. Now we've got a team going to the playoffs. It really feels good."
Besides the two touchdown runs, Bole completed 8 of 12 passes for 112 yards in two quarters of play. Hartselle finished the game with 139 yards rushing.
West Point had 246 yards of total offense with 226 coming on the ground.
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