MUSCLE SHOALS — There’s a new king in the north.
And Class 5A No. 1 Muscle Shoals seized the throne with a 28-21 win against defending state champion, No. 4 Hartselle (4-2, 3-1 Region 8) in a most uncharacteristic way.
Hit by two personal foul penalties and picked apart by Tigers quarterback Deacon Aldridge, the Trojans’ heralded defense failed to protect an eight-point lead late in the fourth quarter.
With 1:24 to score or take its chances in overtime, the offense bailed out Muscle Shoals (6-0, 4-0), going 80 yards in seven plays. Jamarcus Nance scored the winning touchdown from a yard out, getting stood up at the line of scrimmage but rolling off into the end zone with 27.5 seconds to play.
“It feels good to do that,” running back Tyler Jackson said of the offenses game-saving role. “We knew we were capable of it. We work on 2-minute situations all the time; we just never really have been put in that situation. But it feels good to get some love.”
Jackson came to life the second half and set up the winning score with a 51-yard run to the Hartselle 1 on second-and-10 with 33 seconds remaining. Jackson finished with 120 yards rushing and a 21-yard touchdown on seven carries.
His total came after he had minus-2 yards on two first-half rushes.
Nursing a 14-13 halftime lead into the fourth quarter, Nance totaled 58 yards on a 65-yard touchdown drive, capped by his 21-yard run. That set up a 21-13 Muscle Shoals lead with 4:09 to play.
It might have been the dagger, if not for some costly penalties on the Trojans defense. On third-and-five from the Hartselle 31, Muscle Shoals linebacker Blake Logan sacked Aldridge for a loss of 17, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for celebrating moved the chains anyway.
“It’s a lot of fun playing this game, and kids are having fun,” Muscle Shoals coach Scott Basden said. “But I guess I did a poor job of teaching them to come over here on the sideline and have fun. But I thought the kids played their butts off, and I’m proud of them.”
From there, Aldridge completed five of his next eight passes, including a 9-yard touchdown to Sidney Steele after a second-down roughing-the-passer penalty.
Aldridge then rolled right and connected with Steele for the tying 2-point conversion.
Aldridge finished 15-of-28 passing with touchdown throws of 12, 24 and 9 yards, the last two to Steele, who had five catches for 91 yards.
“He’s a warrior,” Hartselle coach Bob Godsey said of his quarterback. “He had protection to do that. There were five guys up front fighting their guts out. We had some receivers make big catches. We’ve got to learn how to make those plays earlier down the stretch.
“We’ll get it figured out.”
Aldridge connected with Blake Slayton on the 12-yard score to give Hartselle a 7-0 early lead.
It stayed that way until Nance ripped off a 41-yard touchdown run to tie it on the quarter’s final play.
The Tigers regained a 13-7 lead on Aldridge’s second touchdown pass but missed the extra-point kick. Weston Allen then set up the Trojans’ 14-13 halftime lead with a 5-yard scoring run.
Nance finished with a 146 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 19 carries.
Auburn commitment and five-star defensive lineman Dee Liner totaled six tackles, two sacks and three tackles for loss with Gene Chizik watching from the sideline.
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