— posted by Michael Cummings
Hartselle dominated Athens in a 23-0 victory Friday night at Golden Eagle Stadium, and there’s plenty to talk about. Follow me past the jump for a few kneejerk reactions to what was an intriguing game.
New guy shines: Deacon Aldridge is going to be an interesting player to watch this season. He threw for only 31 yards, but after a slow first half he took control the Hartselle offense — and then the game. He finished with more than 100 rushing yards, and he extended several broken plays with his athletic ability. Most of his rushing yardage came on option keepers, but his longest run came on a fourth-and-10 scramble that was originally designed as a pass. After going through his reads, Aldridge scrambled to his left and ran down the sideline for a 37-yard touchdown. It could be a sign of things to come.
New year, same old Hartselle: Some things have changed, like the faces of Hartselle’s main skill players. But the Tigers still know how to run the ball and play defense. They finished with 268 rushing yards and limited Athens to just over 100 total yards. That sounds like a playoff-caliber team.
Work to do: Athens has its work cut out. The Golden Eagles lost quarterback Stephen Rivers and running back Ryan Horton to graduation, and the offense struggled in their absence. New starting quarterback William Matthews had a few good moments, but his passes often sailed too high over receivers. He finished 10-for-26 for 87 yards.
Special teams, special player: Gavin Marsh was a weapon for Hartselle. He made three field goals, of 39, 43 and 28 yards, and the two longer ones would have easily been good from 50 yards. He also had a 57-yard punt and a few touchbacks on kickoffs. Marsh gives Hartselle the option of playing for a long field goal or field position. And that’s very valuable.