Russellville outlasts East Limestone, 19-15Published 4:31pm Tuesday, September 17, 2013
For the FCT
CAPSHAW — Offensive miscues and empty trips to the red zone spoiled East Limestone’s home opener on a clear and cool Friday night as Russellville outlasted the Indians 19-15 in a Class 5A, Region 8 clash in front of a frenzied crowd at Phil Cavnar Field.
Russellville (1-2, 1-1), which started the season 0-2 for the first time in 16 years, overcame another standout performance by East Limestone’s Jordon Gandy. The all-purpose star scored on a kickoff, caught six passes for 66 yards, ran for a 33-yard gain and finished with more than 200 yards from punt and kick returns. He also punted twice, kicked an extra point and recovered a fumble.
“We made some mistakes on formations on offense and defense in the first half but we came out in the second half and corrected them,” said Deyon Hill, a sophomore who ran for five of Russellville’s 11 first downs. “We just had to keep our heads up because they capitalized on our mistakes in the first half.”
The East defense forced three punts and a turnover in Russellville’s final four possessions in the second half, but the Indians stalled in three straight trips to the Golden Tigers’ side of the field due to dropped passes and long-yardage situations on third and fourth downs.
After East forced the Golden Tigers’ drive to stall at their own 22, Russellville opted to punt to Gandy, who returned it to the Golden Tigers’ 36.
Dhalquille Eichelberger jump-started the Indians’ drive with a 12-yard rumble and Brick Pugh capped the seven-play, 36-yard scoring drive by throwing a 12-yard touchdown strike to Witt Black. Gandy tacked on the extra point to give East a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter.
Russellville answered on its ensuing drive after Reed Smith caught a 35-yard pass from Zack Garrison and Hill barreled in for a 4-yard touchdown to make it 7-6 in the second quarter.
After a turnover on downs by East, Russellville took over at its own 33. Hill, who rushed six times for 49 yards on the drive, had a 24-yard scamper stopped by Gandy’s touchdown-saving tackle. Hill eventually scored on a 9-yard TD run to give the Golden Tigers a 12-7 lead with 4:38 left in the second.
East seized a 15-12 lead at halftime, thanks to a 95-yard kickoff return by the speedy and elusive Gandy. He started left, slipped through a tackle and then burst up the right sideline after getting a perimeter block from Brick Pugh, who ran in the 2-point conversion.
On its second drive in the third, Russellville went on a 65-yard drive to score the only points of the second half. Garrison hit a quick 16-yard pass to Smith and Hill carried four times for 44 yards.
Garrison burst into the secondary and ran through an arm tackle to score on a 20-yeard keeper to put the Golden Tigers ahead for good at 19-15. Clay McNatt hit the PAT to ensure East could not attempt a field goal to tie the score.
During much of the first half, Russellville used 5-foot-9-inch, 157-pound cornerback Shemar Hamilton in single coverage against the 6-foot-4-inch, 195-pound Gandy. After halftime, RHS rolled over a safety to help bottle up Gandy, who played a majority of the 139 snaps on special teams, offense and defense despite muscle cramps.
Hill ran 27 times for 160 yards and two scores. Garrison completed 7 of 12 for 104 yards with no interceptions and one rushing TD. Smith had six receptions for 80 yards, including grabs of 35, 12, 16 and 10 yards.
“My offensive line did a great job tonight and our wide receivers did a good job blocking downfield,” Hill said.
JJ Johnson and Jesse Vincent had interceptions for Russellville, with Jalen Scott, Konner Bendall, Blake Bendall, Jared Thornton, Matthew Davidson and Tyrone Wilson each collecting tackles for a loss.
Russellville (1-2, 1-1), which improved to 5-1 all-time against East, will host West Point (1-2, 0-2) in a Week 4 region contest.