By Chris McCarthy/Editor
For Glencoe High head football coach Lee Ozmint, Friday’s 31-24 win over Etowah came down to a matter of physiology.
“At this point of the season, it’s like muscle memory for our kids. They’ve have done everything so many times to the point that you don’t really have to coach them too much. They know what’s expected and they kind of can go through the motions and know what to do in every situation.”
Houston Word did just that in the game’s closing minute. With the hosts at the Yellow Jacket 6-yard line looking to tie or take the lead, the senior safety batted away a pass on fourth down and 2 to preserve the win in Attalla.
After Glencoe took the lead on Thomas Ozmint’s 23-yard touchdown run with 3:24 left, the Blue Devils used pass plays of 11, 9, 13, 12 and 10 yards to produce a first down at the Jacket 14. It was Etowah’s only trip inside the red zone all night.
An 8-yard run from Devin Horton brought the ball to the 6, but the Glencoe defense held the Blue Devils (7-3) to zero yards on the following two plays, setting up Word’s game-deciding play.
“Our defensivc line won it down there in the red zone,” said Lee Ozmint. “We started getting pressure on the quarterback and forced him to throw quicker then he wanted to. Our philosophy on defense is simple – if we make them snap the ball all the way down the field, eventually they’ll either make a mistake or run out of gas, and that was one of those situations where we showed that.
“Houston Word has made play after play after play for is this year,” Ozmint added. “He’s the smallest man on the field but has got the biggest heart.”
Coming out of halftime with a 17-14 advantage, the Yellow Jackets (7-3) opened the third quarter with a 12-play, 76-yard possession that drained more than seven minutes off the clock and set up the visitors at the Blue Devil 15
That was as far as Glencoe got. On a third down and 11, Devin Horton scooped up a fumble at the Etowah 3 and raced 97 yards for the score. Jose Mandragon’s extra point gave the hosts their first lead of the game at 21-17 at the 4:42 mark of the third period.
The visitors regained the lead early in the fourth quarter after taking over at the Etowah 31. A pair of 15-yard penalties moved the Yellow Jackets to the 1, where quarterback Dylan Stone took it in the end zone on a keeper. Bright’s PAT pushed the lead to 24-21 at 10:11.
The Blue Devils tied the game via a 10-play, 54-yard series that culminated in Mandragon’s 42-yard field goal with 6:33 remaining in the contest. But Ozmint’s TD on Glencoe’s next series gave the Yellow Jackets the lead for good.
“The offensive line just blew them out on that play,” said Lee Ozmint. “No one laid a hand on Thomas.”
Glencoe out-gained Etowah in total yardage, 350 to 201, including a 266 to 82 edge on the ground. The Yellow Jackets also had an 11-minute advantage in time of possession.
Thomas Ozmint rushed for 163 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries, while Stone ran 21 times for 103 yards and a score.
Dalton Roberts and Luke Betterson each had two catches.
Mason Brown had 15 tackles, including four for a loss. He also had a sack.
Word finished with eight tackles, followed by Taylor Daugherty and Andrew Willis with seven each.
“We just didn’t do the necessary things to win,” said Etowah head coach Drew Noles. “We turned the ball over twice in the first quarter and gave them a short field a couple of times, and [Glencoe’s] too good a team to do that against. We had a lot of injuries coming into this game and got a few more [players] banged up tonight, but I thought we played hard, and you’ve got to give credit to Glencoe We just have to lick our wounds and get better and get ready for the playoff next week.”
Word made his presence felt early on when he recovered a fumble on Etowah’s second play from scrimmage on the game’s opening drive.
Starting from the Blue Devil 25, Glencoe used eight plays and a 15-yard pass interference penalty on Etowah to arrive at the 4, where Ozmint’s TD run and Bright’s PAT made it 7-0 at 7:25 of the first quarter.
Will Parker recovered a fumble on the next Etowah series but the Yellow Jackets eventually had to punt. On the Blue Devils’ first play from scrimmage off that kick, Paul Ruiz broke free for a 74-yard touchdown run. Mandragon’s kick was good for a 7-7 tie at 4:47.
Taking away Ruiz’s run, the Glencoe defense limited Etowah to minus-12 yards in the first quarter.
Bright’s 21-yard field goal at 10:37 of the second quarter capped a six-play, 44-yard drive and made it 10-7 in favor of the visitors.
The Yellow Jackets extended their lead to double digits on Stone’s 21-yard touchdown pass to Willis, with Bright’s extra point putting Glencoe up 17-7 with 2:37 left in the first half.
The Blue Devils answered with Andy Noles’ 31-yard TD pass to Lamar Thomas, narrowing the gap to three points heading into halftime.
Ruiz rushed for 96 yards on 11 attempts.
Noles was 4-for-10 in passing for 65 yards, while Kordell Rudolph completed 9-of-18 passes for 54 yards.
Thomas had seven receptions for 76 yards.
Moore had 19 tackles, followed by Glen Williams with 12 and G.Q. Hardwick with nine.
“Who gave us a shot at [winning] this one tonight?” said Lee Ozmint. “We’re not a team that everybody talks about, and I understand that, because we’ve lost three games. But our kids have played hard in every game since Weeks 2 and 3, and I’m proud of the way they overcame a lot of stuff tonight. Our kids keep showing character when it counts, and they deserve everything that they’re getting. I think we’re a tough team to deal with right now, and I would hate to play us as the fourth seed in the state playoffs.”
Glencoe travels to Hanceville in the first round of the state playoffs, while Etowah visits Pleasant Grove.