EUFAULA, Ala. — After relying on its defense during the first three games of the season, the Russell County football team met its match in Eufaula on Friday night.
Though the Warriors tightened up in the second half, they had few answers for Tigers quarterback Marcellas Butler, wide receiver Jaylin Robinson and running back Desmond Richards, allowing 279 total yards in the first half en route to a 35-22 loss on the road.
The loss was the Warriors’ first in Class 5A, Region 2 this season, while Eufaula made it three straight in the region to open the season.
“We had a lack of communication on defense,” Warriors coach Demond McCoy said after the game. “They didn’t do anything to surprise us.”
The bulk of Eufaula’s early success in the game came via a combination of strong running from Richards and long scoring strikes between Robinson and Butler. Robinson scored each of the Tigers’ first three touchdowns, two via the pass and one on a long kickoff return.
On its second drive of the game, Eufaula rode Richards on four carries to get into Russell County territory before Butler connected with Robinson for a 33-yard scoring strike.
After Russell County responded with a good drive of its own that nonetheless ended in a blocked field goal, Eufaula went 80 yards in two minutes, 28 seconds, culminating in a 20-yard touchdown pass to Robinson and a two-point conversion to make it 15-0.
Russell County got on the board with a touchdown run by Joshua Johnson four minutes later, but Robinson showed off his athleticism again, breaking tackles and racing 87 yards for a touchdown.
The Tigers ended their impressive first half with another score, this one a 75-yard pass to Richards, who ran into a host of Warrior defenders on the play before bursting out the other side and racing for the score. Richards had 96 total yards on the drive, which started at the Eufaula 4-yard line, and 234 in the game (159 rushing, 75 receiving).
Eufaula relied on Richards in the second half, giving it to him 19 times for 97 of his rushing yards, including a 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to give the Tigers a 13-point lead.
Butler completed 9 of 15 passes for 237 yards and three touchdowns in the game. Robinson had three total touchdowns and two interceptions on defense.
McCoy said one of the defense’s big problems was its inability to make tackles.
“We have to wrap up,” he said. “We have to make tackles. We can’t make mistakes like that and expect to win.”
Still, the Warriors showed a vast improvement over last season’s 48-0 loss in this game. Coming out of halftime, Russell County cut the Tigers’ lead to 28-22 with back-to-back touchdowns, one a 38-yard pass from Byron Johnson to Calvyn Johnson and the other a 22-yard pass from Byron Johnson to Dontavious Hill to open the fourth. On the ground, the Warriors were bolstered by running back Joshua Johnson, who carried 17 times for 109 yards and a touchdown. It was the third time the sophomore went over the century mark this season.
“Our offense revolves around our quarterback making good decisions,” McCoy said. “He’s still getting better, and I thought we played much better when we came out in the second half. We wanted to win that game. If we can do that going forward, we’ll continue to improve.”
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Friday at Eufaula High
Russell County 0 9 7 6—22
Eufaula 7 21 0 7—35
E—Jaylin Robinson 33 pass from Marcellas Butler (Thomas Espy kick); 5:19
E—Robinson 20 pass from Butler (Junior McClendon run); 11:00
RC—Joshua Johnson 11 run (kick failed); 7:03
E—Robinson 87 kickoff return (pass failed); 6:44
E—Desmond Richards 75 pass from Butler (Espy kick); 3:23
RC—Patrick Flynn 37 field goal; :00
RC—Calvyn Johnson 38 pass from Byron Johnson (Flynn kick); 9:14
RC—Dontavious Hill 22 pass from B. Johnson (kick failed); 11:54
E—Richards 1 run (Espy kick); 6:19
Records: Russell County, 2-2, 2-1; Eufaula, 4-0, 3-0. Next: Russell County, Sept. 27 vs. Northside-Columbus at home; Eufaula, Sept. 27 at Enterprise.