By Joe Crowe, For the Tribune
HARTSELLE — The Center Point Eagles’ 2022 playoff run ended in the second round to the Hartselle Tigers Friday night.
The Eagles came in hot fewer than two minutes into the game, when Jamari Johnson intercepted a pass from Hartselle quarterback Jack Smith. That led to a touchdown by Troy Bruce, a 29-yard run to put Center Point on the board with six.
Hartselle’s 17 Eli Tidwell joined Smith to lead the Tigers to the Eagles’ 2-yard line, but no further. After a 2-yard run by Bruce, Center Point’s quarterback Jabari Collier then checked in for a series of carries, marching toward the goal line and beginning with a 37-yard run.
With 1:31 left in the first quarter, a 12-yard run by Bruce put Center Point up 12-0. Deon Moore ran in a two-point conversation, setting Center Point ahead at 14-0.
The second quarter belonged to Hartselle. Smith launched successful passes on four occasions, and Izaya Fletcher ran the fourth pass in three yards to put Hartselle on the board.
With 3:45 left in the half, Ri Fletcher found the end zone on a three-yard run, placing Hartselle within a point of Center Point. Then, in the last play before the half, an 18-yard field goal by Crawford Lang put Hartselle ahead 16-14.
Hartselle scored quickly to start the second half as Smith set off on a 49-yard touchdown run to put Hartselle ahead 23-14, following the point-after from Lang.
A game of inches ensued at that point, as both sides traded the ball and earned single-digit gains, until 4:29, when Collier and Bruce teamed up for a long drive that led to a three-yard touchdown run with 54 seconds left in the third, to close the gap to three points, Hartselle 23, Center Point 20.
The fourth quarter began with Collier completing a touchdown pass just over a minute in to Harold Holloman for 39 yards, putting Center Point ahead 26-23.
That was the end of the good news for the Eagles, as the rest of the game belonged to the Tigers. After a two-and-a-half minute drive, Fletcher ran six yards for another Tiger touchdown and point after, setting the score at 30-26.
Another Hartselle drive lasted from 7:41 to 2:54, when Fletcher ran in for another TD, putting the score at 36-26 Hartselle.
Center Point’s run with the ball ended early, with a pass from Collier intercepted by Hartselle’s Drake Borden. Hartselle remained on offense for the final two minutes and are now headed to the next round on a 36-26 win.
Collier led Center Point in both passing and rushing stats, while #1 Harold Holliman led receptions.
“Hats off to Hartselle,” said Center Point High Coach George Bates, who has led the Eagles to the playoffs all five years so far that he’s been at the helm.
At some point, he said, he’d look back over Center Point’s 9-win season after the tough loss. “But it hurts. It hurts right now,” Bates said.
Hartselle now moves on to the next round to face the Mountain Brook Spartans.