By Chris McCarthy/Editor
Powered by a dominant rushing attack that included a pair of 100-yard efforts, Etowah administered a 40-12 beating to Class 5A, Region 7 rival Scottsboro last friday (Oct. 5) in Attalla.
The Blue Devils (5-1, 3-1) amassed 362 total yards on the ground, 347 of those yards courtesy of Paul Ruiz, Dominick Pinson and Devin Horton.
Ruiz led the way with 148 yards and a touchdown on just six carries, with 136 of those yards coming after halftime.
Pinson ran for 117 yards and three TDs on 12 carries, while Horton added 91 yards and two scored on 15 attempts. Pinson also had an interception on defense.
After the Wildcats scored a touchdown on the game’s opening possession, the Blue Devils reeled off 33 straight points.
Fourteen of those points were set up by a pair of interceptions by Jay Duckett, who had three picks on the night.
The win moved Etowah into a three-way tie with Boaz and Arab for second place behind Fort Payne in the region standings.
“We had success running the ball, and our offensive lineman did a good job of coming off the ball,” said Etowah head coach Sam McCorkle. “We were moving the line of scrimmage and getting six and seven yards a pop. I think we have a really good trio of running backs in Devin, D.P. and Ruiz.
“We really held [Scottsboro] to one score since we had our younger guys playing when they score late in the game, so we played well defensively. I also thought it was real important that we get our younger guys some varsity game experience.”
Senior quarterback Tyler Bishop had a solid night, completing 9-of-13 passes to seven different receivers for 205 yards.
“Tyler’s doing a good job of leading the team and managing the game,” said McCorkle. “He’s a tough kid and he’s a winner.”
Dakota Parrish had two receptions for 30 yards.
The highwater mark for the visitors occurred on their first possession, when a 30-yard pass from Trey Lewis to Carson Hutchins on the game’s first play from scrimmage put Scottsboro deep inside Etowah territory.
Five plays later, Lewis and Hutchins hooked up for a 25-yard touchdown pass and a 7-0 lead at 9:03 of the first quarter.
The Blue Devils almost dug themselves a deeper hole when the hosts fumbled the snap on a punt attempt and the Wildcats fell on the ball at the Blue Devil 27.
The Scottsboro ensuing drive short-circuited on the next play, however, as Duckett picked off a pass and returned it to the Scottsboro 45-yard line.
Pinson scampered for 40 yards to the 5, and on the next play Horton scored off a toss-sweep.
The two-point conversion failed, making it 7-6 in favor of the Wildcats at 6:28.
The hosts took the lead for good on their next possession – an 11-play, 65-yard affair that ended on Pinson’s three-yard TD run at 9:25 of the second period. After another failed conversion attempt, the Blue Devils led 12-7.
Duckett’s second interception led to Etowah’s third score.
Taking over at the Wildcat 36, the Blue devils eventually made it to the 15, where Pinson took it in with 2:24 left before the half.
Horton ran in the two-point conversion, putting Etowah up 20-7.
After a Scottsboro punt gave the hosts the ball back with 1:16 on the clock, it took the Blue Devils just four plays to cover 75 yards.
Horton ran for 13 yards on first down and Bishop passed to Parrish for another 10 to move the ball to the Etowah 38.
Two plays later, Bishop spotted Xavier Caldwell streaking down the left sideline and hit the senior receiver in stride for the touchdown with 37.3 seconds on the clock.
Horton again provided the two-point conversion, giving the hosts a 26-7 advantage after 24 minutes.
Following a sloppy third quarter that included four punts, an interception, two fumbles and seven penalties, the Blue Devils added to their lead on a hook-and-lateral play from Caldwell to Pinson that resulted in a 21-yard touchdown at the 4:50 mark. With Horton’s PAT, Etowah went ahead 32-7.
With the Blue Devils reserves in, the Wildcats finally got on the scoreboard with 1:38 left on DeKarlos Billingsley’s seven-yard touchdown run.
The hosts responded on the next play from scrimmage when Ruiz took the ball on a sweep and out-raced the Scottsboro defense 80 yards to the end zone.
Horton kicked the extra point for the 40-14 final score.
“I was very proud of how we played defense in the second half,” said Scottsboro head coach Swane Morris, who was head coach at Gaston from 2001-2009. “I thought that we came out and responded to the challenge that we issued at halftime that we couldn’t continue to let [Etowah] run over us.”
The Blue Devils’ postseason outlook becomes more defined at the end of October, as Etowah plays Arab, Southside (third place in the region at 2-2) and Boaz over the next three weeks.
“We’ve got to polish some things up, because we’re about to play three really good teams in a row,” said McCorkle. “I still think our best football hasn’t been played yet. If our guys keep working hard and maintain a positive attitude, we’ll be up for the challenge.”
Etowah travels to Arab on Friday for region action.