Auburn, Ala.—One year ago the Tanner Rattlers had an opportunity for a state championship and came away with a disappointing loss to Elba in Tuscaloosa. The second time around Coach Laron White’s team left no doubt about its title hopes with a 28-14 victory over Washington County at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
UAB commitment Fred Rich earned MVP honors for the Rattlers after he ran for 79 yards on 13 carries with two touchdowns. He also added six tackles and an interception on defense as they held Washington County to just 215 yards of total offense.
“I don’t know how I feel right now,” Rich said. “I’m a little surprised. This is a straight blessing. Winning it feels so good. Last year I was about to cry after we lost and we turned it all the way around.”
Rich was the MVP, but sophomore quarterback Jonathan Fletcher did his part for Tanner in the win as well with a five-yard touchdown run and 41 yards on five carries. He also added an interception that he returned 44 yards for the final touchdown of the game that put the game out of reach.
Tanner didn’t take long to get the scoring started on Friday as they drove from the 30 to the Washington County in just three plays before Rich broke loose for his first touchdown of the game. Late in the first half Washington County answered back to a four-yard run by T.J. Kidd to make it 7-7 at the half.
Fletcher put the Rattlers up once again with a five-yard scramble early in the third quarter before Rich struck again. Taking over the ball at its own seven, Tanner took over the game on the ground as Rich and Heyden Stephens carried the ball eight straight times to move the ball into Washington County territory before Fletcher scampered 15 yards to put the ball into scoring position. Rich finished off the 12-play drive with a four-year touchdown to make it 21-7.
Also playing defense, Fletcher put the finishing touches on the game with an interception return for a touchdown with just over three minutes left that gave the Rattlers a three touchdown lead. Washington County tacked on a late touchdown, but it was too late as Tanner raised the state championship trophy for the first time.