MUSCLE SHOALS — If there was a question whether Muscle Shoals could maintain its superiority for a second straight season in the rivalry with Russellville, the Trojans emphatically answered it Friday night.
With previously suspended Auburn commitment Dee Liner anchoring a dominant performance by Muscle Shoals’ defensive front and running back Jamarcus Nance ripping off big runs for a second straight week, Class 5A No. 2 Muscle Shoals (2-0, 1-0 Region 8) shut out Russellville (1-1, 0-1) for the second straight year, winning 43-0.
Liner started for the first time since being indefinitely suspended on Aug. 17. The five-star prospect finished with four tackles for loss for a Trojans defense that allowed 137 yards and has yet to concede a point this season.
Nance rushed for touchdowns of 67 and 45 yards and accounted for 162 of Muscle Shoals’ 351 yards rushing on 10 carries.
It was the first time in 50 games in the series that Russellville has been shutout in consecutive meetings and was the second-most lopsided score in the series since a 63-0 Golden Tigers win in 2002.
“It feels great, to be honest,” Trojans linebacker Blake Logan said. “I’ve been playing with these guys since eighth grade, and before last year, it had been a while since we’d beat them.
“We played good. There’s always room for improvement, but I thought our front three did a great job owning the line of scrimmage.”
Nance’s long run came on what looked like a busted play to the right edge. He reversed field and ran untouched for 67 yards to put the Trojans ahead 10-0 early in the second quarter.
Quarterback Ryan Ware added a 1-yard touchdown run to set up a 16-0 halftime lead.
Meanwhile Russellville struggled offensively. Down 3-0, the Golden Tigers drove to the Muscle Shoals 37-yard line before an interception by Trojans defensive back Levi Fell ended one of the Golden Tigers’ better scoring opportunities.
Russellville also capitalized on four Trojans penalties on a 10-play drive to the Muscle Shoals 32 before an incompletion at the halftime buzzer.
Three of Russellville’s five first downs in the half were the result of Muscle Shoals penalties.
The Golden Tigers drove 12 plays to the Trojans 8-yard line late in the third quarter before Logan’s third-down sack — one of two for him — set up a turnover on downs.
Behind an offensive line that returned no starters from 2011, Russellville’s Tyler Boyd rushed for a team-high 38 yards on 12 carries after going for 268 on 28 carries last week against Deshler.
“We needed to make some plays and keep their offense off the field,” Russellville coach Michael Jackson said. “But every time we’d make a play, they’d make a play to stop us. They held the ball most of the first half, so our defense kind of got gassed there.
“They are very good up front, so we’re having kind of a problem holding up with those guys. They are fast and they are strong, and it's hard for us to hold on to the ball when we can’t handle the defensive front.”
Nance added a 45-yard option run for a 22-0 lead, and Ware, who came tantalizingly close on several deep passes last week against Rogers, connected with Javian Ramson for a 45-yard touchdown pass and a 29-0 lead in the final minute of the third quarter.
“It felt good to finally get a momentum swing,” Ware said. “I’ve been trying to hit him over and over and finally connected with one. I’m starting to feel consistent again.”
Reserves took over from there, and Kavente McDonald and Demetrius Abernathy each tacked on fourth-quarter touchdown runs of 18 yards to cap the scoring.
Russellville will try to rebound at home next week against East Limestone, while Muscle Shoals travels to Lawrence County.
Liner was not made available for comment after the game, and Muscle Shoals coach Scott Basden said that’s likely to continue the rest of the season.
He said the decision to play Liner in the game was made “a long time ago.”
Nobody from Muscle Shoals would discuss the specifics of what led to Liner’s suspension, but Basden and players said it’s all behind them now.
“I think there are a lot of things that were out there and are still out there that didn’t happen,” Basden said. “It’s just a lot of innuendo. Like I’ve said from day one, he’s a good kid. He’s served his punishment. We’ve known that punishment from day one and we’re not going to talk about it anymore.”
Bryan App can be reached at 256-740-5730 or bryan.app@TimesDaily.com. Follow @bappster on Twitter.