Chelsea falls on road at Tuscaloosa County

Published 12:17 am Saturday, September 9, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

NORTHPORT – The Chelsea Hornets had another solid day offensively, but multiple explosive touchdowns from the Tuscaloosa County Wildcats proved too much as the Wildcats beat the Hornets, 42-21, on Sept. 8 in the region opener for both teams.

After an opening drive turnover from the Wildcats, Chelsea took over in midfield and used their field position to set up the offense on the two-yard line, where Emerson Russell picked right back up where he left off after a four-touchdown night a week ago with a two-yard score.

With the Hornets now up 7-0, Tuscaloosa County hit a 43-yard pass and eventually got into the end zone on a four-yard touchdown to tie the game up with five-and-a-half minutes to go in the first quarter.

After a Chelsea interception, the Wildcats faked a punt in an attempt to convert on fourth down, but the Hornets stopped it on the 31 with a minute left in the quarter to take over.

Then, Chelsea coach Todd Cassity dialed up a fake punt of his own on fourth down early in the second quarter and succeeded thanks to an Anderson Brooks run. They tried to convert again on the next fourth down of the drive, but this time, they gave the ball back to the Wildcats.

On Tuscaloosa County’s next drive, the Wildcats completed a 63-yard touchdown pass to score from their own 37-yard line and take a 14-7 lead as the halfway mark of the second quarter drew near.

After the Hornets drove to the 25-yard line, they were forced to kick a field goal, which they missed. That teed up an 84-yard deep shot from the Wildcats on the next drive to extend their lead to 21-7 with two minutes left.

Just over a minute after, Russell secured his second touchdown of the half with a 26-yard scoring run to cut the deficit to seven.

Tuscaloosa County responded shortly after with a quick drive and a quarterback sneak from the one-yard line to go back up 14 with 18 seconds left in the half.

The Wildcats attempted to extend their lead even further going into the break after they converted an onside kick, but a Chelsea interception on the hail mary sent the game to halftime with Tuscaloosa County leading 28-14.

For as frantic as the end of the first half was, the start of the third quarter was quiet. Both teams were scoreless in the half until Chelsea converted a fourth down and set up Russell for a six-yard touchdown run. His third score of the night made the Wildcats’ lead just 28-21 inside of three minutes left in the third.

Afterwards, Chelsea tried an onside kick of their own, but unlike Tuscaloosa County, they were unable to secure it as the kick went out of bounds. The Wildcats used the field position to score a long touchdown run, and they went up 35-21 just a minute after Chelsea closed the gap.

From there, Tuscaloosa County held on to their lead by keeping the Hornets out of the end zone, but they were able to tack on a late touchdown with under three minutes to go to close out the scoring at 42-21, as the Wildcats took the win.

Russell got over the century mark again as he rushed for 107 yards and three touchdowns off 25 carries, and he added 42 receiving yards from five catches.

Carter Dotson was 17-27 with 186 passing yards and three interceptions. His top receiver was Jaxon Shuttlesworth, who had 55 receiving yards off seven catches, while Nick Sulenski earned 27 yards off four catches.

Next for the Hornets, they will travel back home to face local rival Oak Mountain on Sept. 15 in a rematch from Chelsea’s lone win from a season ago.

Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Mark McLaughlin for providing statistics.