Russellville dropped their first game of the 2015 campaign on Friday night with a loss to the visiting Murray Tigers, 7-31.
The game was played in the rain at historic Rhea Stadium, as a large crowd of Panther Nation attended wearing rain gear in the stands.
Murray, a Class 2A team, came into the game with a 3-2 overall record. Both these teams open their District play next weekend.
The Panther defense were able to make statements early in the game, holding the Tigers to consecutive three-and-outs and showing toughness on defense with a sack and constant pressure at the line of scrimmage. After one quarter, there was no score.
As the first quarter wound down, the Panthers were forced to punt from deep in their own end-zone. Shortly into the second quarter, Murray was able to kick a field goal for the game’s first points. Dreadfully for the Panthers, it was less than a minute later that a Panther fumble and Murray’s 48 yard return for a TD and point after gave the visitors a 10-0 lead.
Just before the half the Tigers would score again, and at halftime the Panthers trailed 0-17.
In the second half, the Murray squad would complete two more scoring drives and would be in the lead 31-0 when Russellville finally scored. Joshua Bigbee’s 27 yard scamper for a TD, followed by Milam Watkins’ kick after, made the score 31-7 with 5:30 left in the game.
31-7 would be the final score. In the loss, the RHS team rushed for 177 yards and no Panther rusher gained 100 yards (a first this season) and were led by Bigbee’s 97 yards on the ground. The Panthers gained no yards gained by passing.
Allowing 232 rushing yards and only 42 passing yards, the Panther defense kept the Tigers’ offense honest for the game. They were also able to force and recover two Murray fumbles.
The win is Murray’s second in a row and makes their overall record 4-2. They next play Russellville’s former long-time rival, Mayfield, to open play next weekend.
The loss for Russellville is their first of the season and ends their five-game win streak, making their overall 2015 record 5-1. The Panthers next week play their final regular season home game of the season, when they open District play with a visit from Fulton County. That game is scheduled for a 7 pm kickoff on Friday October 2 at Rhea Stadium.