RUSSELLVILLE — The Golden Tigers got off to a slow start, but stellar defensive play and a second half surge led to a 23-7 homecoming win over Athens.
Russellville (5-2, 3-2) clinched a playoff spot with the win.
“Our defense played outstanding tonight,” Russellville head coach Michael Jackson said.
“They made big play after big play. We struggled early offensively. We had trouble making blocks. Athens is very quick defensively. It took a while, but we knew if we could get our skill guys in space, we could make things happen.”
Russellville forced five turnovers and held Athens to 63 rushing yards to its 232.
The Golden Tigers trailed Athens 7-0 at the end of the first quarter, a quarter in which the Golden Tigers only mustered eight yards of offense and were forced to punt four times.
Athens (1-6, 1-4) scored its only touchdown of the game after a shanked punt of seven yards led to the Golden Eagles starting on the Russellville 29. A couple of plays later, Shaun Johnson scored on 12-yard run to give Athens a 7-0 lead.
After Athens missed a 36-yard field goal attempt early in the second quarter, Russellville was able to put together a 7-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 10-yard touchdown run by Tyler Boyd.
The game went to halftime tied at 7.
CJ Posey scored on a 16-yard run in the third quarter to give the Golden Tigers a 13-7 lead. On the Golden Eagles’ next possession, Chase Fretwell intercepted a William Matthews pass to give Russellville the ball at Athens’ 24. Russellville was held to 20-yard field goal by Adam Brown, but the Golden Tigers took a 16-7 lead with 1:02 to play in the third quarter.
Matthews was 14-for-29 passing for 112 yards and three interceptions. Johnnie Anderson had 6 catches for 67 yards and a fumble recovery.
Boyd broke a 49-yard touchdown run with 3:11 to play to make the score 23-7 and ice the win. Boyd rushed 18 times for 112 yards.
Jordan Gist and Austin Kitterman each
had an interception for Russellville.
Kitterman and Tra Bonds each had a fumble recovery.