For a while it appeared that Notasulga wasn’t going to enjoy its homecoming contest against R.C. Hatch on Friday, Sept. 22, but the Blue Devils managed to slip away with a 34-20 victory that was much closer than the score indicated.
Trailing 20-18, the Blue Devils scored twice in the final 1:56 of play to pull out the victory.
The Blue Devils moved ahead 24-20 on a 6-yard run by quarterback TraDarius Ezell on a drive that saw him connect with Marc Battle and Walter Tatum on fourth-down plays.
Notasulga tacked on another score when Battle returned a R.C. Hatch pass for a 42-yard interception return for six points with only 1:02 to play.
The Blue Devils trailed 6-0 after the first quarter when R.C. Hatch scored on a 9-yard run with 1:52 left in the quarter.
Notasulga’s defense stepped up to provide the Blue Devils a touchdown when Keywun Rowles stripped the ball from a R.C. Hatch offensive player and raced 59-yards to tie the game 6-6 at the half.
Notasulga seemed to seize momentum in the third quarter when Ezell found Tatum for a 78-yard touchdown pass. The extra point was no good and Notasulga led 12-6 with 11:13 left in the third quarter.
Marcus Hughley forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and recovered for the Blue Devils who moved the 23 yards in two plays with Tatum scoring on a 9-yard run with 9:23 to play. The score remained 18-6 when the extra point failed.
R.C. Hatch cut the lead to 18-12 with 6:26 left in the third quarter on a 9-yard run. The visitors took the lead at 20-18 with 7:23 left in the fourth quarter on a 1-yard run and added the 2-point conversion on another run. That set the stage for the Blue Devils to score twice late in the game for the victory.
“We played sloppy with penalties and turnovers. Penalties caused us to have two touchdowns come back,” pointed out Notasulga Coach Anthony “Tank” Jones.
Two days of classes being cancelled because of Tropical Storm Irma and homecoming activities may have been a factor in the lackluster performance.
“All week I knew we weren’t focused. Folks kept saying it would have been an upset if R.C. Hatch won. We may have had the upset. They were 2-1 and we were 1-2 and they have good team,” Jones noted.
Notasulga rushed for 196 yards and passed for 167 to produce 363 in total offense.
Ezell completed 10-of-17 passes for 167 yards with no interceptions and a touchdown. He also rushed for a touchdown.
Tatum pulled in six passes for 121 yards and a touchdown. Battle’s two receptions were good for 30 yards.
Daryl Brown didn’t play in the first half with Jones attempting to rest him and give other backs an opportunity with region games remaining the rest of the schedule. That strategy changed at the half and Brown led Blue Devils rushers with 10 carries for 105 yards. Battle added 28 yards on two rushes and Rodd Zeigler carried the ball five times for 27 yards.
Defensively, Ziegler was a workhorse with 12 tackles, including three sacks. He also had a pass deflection. Rowles had eight tackles — two for losses — and returned the fumble for a touchdown.
Tatum recorded eight tackles with one going for a loss and Jaheim Greer added eight tackles.
Notasulga improved to 2-2 overall while R.C. Hatch dropped to 2-2
The Blue Devils will host Autaugaville, 0-2 in the region and 0-2 overall Friday, Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. at Knapp Sanderson Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.