Hartselle prepares for non-region rival Cullman
For Class 5A Hartselle High's football team, playing in loaded Region 8 has more than its share of challenges. But when Hartselle hosts non-region rival Cullman on Friday night at 7, it's as big a game as any for the Tigers.
"It has the longevity of a great rivalry," Hartselle coach Bob Godsey said. "It's one that's been up there a long, long time and is special to both towns. ... You grow up knowing that in Hartselle you're supposed to beat Cullman and in Cullman you're supposed to beat Hartselle."
Fueled by a heated baseball rivalry in which the two teams have battled atop the state's rankings for years, it's also the oldest rivalry in the history of Hartselle's well-documented football program. "It certainly doesn't matter what sport it is — Cullman-Hartselle is always a big game," Godsey said.
Hartselle's football record books show the first meeting with Cullman was in 1920, and since that time, they have appeared on Hartselle's schedule more than any other team.
While Godsey said the Decatur High rivalry is a priority and the Austin matchup has moved up the list, the history of the Cullman rivalry has gotten stronger during the years.
Cullman comes in undefeated and ranked No. 7 in the state, while Hartselle is 3-1. The Bearcats put a 37-10 whipping on the Tigers last year and return plenty of experience from a team that advanced to the playoffs in 2005 while Hartselle missed out on the postseason.
It was the first time the Tigers had lost to Cullman since Godsey took over in 2003 and he said it's a loss that has weighed heavily on his team in the past year. "They put it to us pretty good last year," Godsey said. "We'll have the opportunity Friday to have something to say about that." Clements' Arnold state player of the week: Clements quarterback Cody Arnold was named the Alabama Sports Writers Association offensive player of the week after completing 21-of-35 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns to knock off previously unbeaten Colbert Heights 29-26 on Friday.
The Colts improved to 3-1 days after the death of Arnold's stepbrother Sept. 20.
Also nominated from area schools were Hazlewood's D.J. Jones, who rolled up 206 yards rushing and three touchdowns, and Addison's Blake Turner, who caught touchdown passes of 75 and 50 yards and rushed for scores of 1 and 23 yards. Bad news, good news for Red Raiders: Decatur High is 1-3 for the first time since 1997, but Coach Jere Adcock reminds his players that the '97 team that got off to a slow start finished 7-4 that year.
"The thing that's been talked about the most is the lesson of perseverance through tough times," Adcock said. "Attitudes have been great, focus has been great, work ethic has been great."
Not counting out the same kind of turn around, Adcock said there are positives that can be drawn from the Red Raiders' experiences this year.
"Through all this we've seen some of the most unlikely leaders step up," Adcock said. "Guys who have reacted to adverse situations and taken on more responsibility and developed the characteristics that you're looking for. That's going to take them much further than winning football games."