Jasper heads to Russellville for top 10 matchup

Some of the luster of tonight’s Class 5A, Region 7 battle between the No. 1 Jasper Vikings and No. 8 Russellville was lost when the Golden Tigers dropped their first game of the season to the Hamilton Aggies. Russellville, previously ranked at No. 3, was shutout by the hosting Aggies 17-0, relegating what should have been another Region 7 championship game with the Vikings into a matchup that will largely determine which team could host a first-round playoff game. Though the bout has shifted from a battle of top 5 to top 10 teams, the significance and ramifications surrounding the game hasn’t dulled for the Vikings, who know the Golden Tigers still have a region title in their cross hairs. “I know Russellville has a good football team. Their loss came on the road at Hamilton, a place that’s very hard to win at, and they had five turnovers in the game. They were undefeated and ranked third in the state going into last week — that doesn’t happen by mistake,” Jasper head coach Bryan Moore said. “Ultimately, we’ve got to go out and play much better than we did against Lawrence County. If Russellville wins, it keeps them in the region championship hunt. But for us, it has turned into a blessing as we have to play two tough region opponents that will require our best. We can’t have a let down, we have to continue to be challenged.” Senior center C.J. Wallace said he and his fellow offensive linemen will face a big test against a formidable Russellville defense. “Their defensive line is explosive off the ball. They’re smaller than some of the other lines we’ve played against, but they’re very quick and fast off the ball. Their nose guard is great with his twitch,” Wallace said. “Their linebackers run well also. They like to blitz a lot, so it’s going to be key for us to pick up the blitzes and maximizing protection.”

Junior defensive lineman Brodie Vinson said disrupting the blocking scheme of the Golden Tigers’ offensive line and getting penetration will go a long way into securing a Vikings’ victory. “Up front, we pride ourselves on winning the battle at the line of scrimmage. Every down, we try to set the offensive line a yard deep into the backfield and disrupt the guards’ pulling,” Vinson said. “This week is no different — we have to carry out that same role against Russellville.” Despite the sluggish first-half performance against Lawrence County, Jasper still totaled over 500 yards in the 42-20 victory, as well as limiting the Red Devils to no offensive touchdowns. Kaden Shelton ran for 209 yards on 17 carries with four touchdowns, while J.C. Collins added 161 yards on 24 carries with two touchdowns. Defensively, Taris Rudolph and Harrison Saunders led the defense with 10 tackles each. Last year’s region championship clash went to Jasper in a 42-13 victory at Ki-Ro Gambrell Stadium. The preview show can be seen in its entirety on the Daily Mountain Eagle’s YouTube page. The game will be broadcast live on WJLX 101.5 FM with a 7 p.m. kickoff.