By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
Class 5A, No. 2 Etowah head football coach Drew Noles knew his team might have a letdown after such an emotional season-opening win over Gadsden City on Aug. 23.
Luckily for Noles, the Blue Devil defense came ready to play, as Etowah pitched a shutout en route to a 19-0 victory over Moody on Friday, Aug. 31, at Jim Glover Field in Attalla.
“We had a good week of practice, but it’s hard to tell kids that last week’s over,” Noles said. “We didn’t play well.”
Neither the Etowah Blue Devils (2-0) nor the Moody Blue Devils (0-1) scored in the first quarter, and both defenses were dominant for most of the first half. Late in the second quarter, Etowah forced a Moody three-and-out, and Moody made the mistake of punting to Emil Smith.
Smith caught the ball on the Moody 48-yard line and made several defenders miss as he cut across the field. After picking up a crucial block, Smith evaded one more tackler and sprinted into the end zone for the first score of the game. Etowah took a 6-0 lead with 3:31 remaining in the first half.
Etowah (2-0) forced another three-and-out on Moody’s next drive, and the home Blue Devils took over on their own 31-yard line with 1:57 left in the half.
In his first series under center of the game, Quarterback Derickey Wright led Etowah on a nine-play scoring drive that culminated with an eight-yard touchdown pass to Justin Harris. Wright had 45 yards rushing and 24 yards passing on the drive. Etowah took a 12-0 lead into the locker room.
Moody’s first drive of the second half was identical to its last two drives of the first half. The visitors went three-and-out and punted to the Etowah 39-yard line. Etowah relied on its rushing attack to move the ball on its first drive of the half, and the combination of Wright and running back Reggie Phillips gashed the Moody defense.
On the ninth play of the drive, Wright took the snap in the shotgun and handed it to Emil Smith on a sweep. Smith made one cut and overpowered several Moody defenders as he bullied his way into the end zone for a touchdown. The extra point gave Etowah a 19-0 lead with 5:12 remaining in the game.
Etowah’s shutout nearly came to an end in the fourth quarter when the host Blue Devils were lined up to punt and the ball sailed over the punter’s head. Moody took over on the Etowah four-yard line. Etowah’s defense forced a one-yard loss on the first play of the drive, however, and Moody’s offense couldn’t make its way into the end zone.
The home Blue Devils took over on the five-yard line with 7:38 remaining and ran out the clock to secure the 19-0 victory.
Etowah had 11 penalties on the game, and Noles said that is one of several issues his team needs to address as the season progresses.
“We had penalties we didn’t have last week,” Noles said. “But (Moody) had a lot to do with that. Our defense played well. We didn’t play the well in the first half at times, but we did what we had to do. We have to improve everything. Selfishness. We cannot be a good football team if we have guys upset because there aren’t in the game. That’s the number one problem we have on this team. If that continues to be a problem, we can’t be good.”
Phillips led the Blue Devils on the ground with 98 yards on 18 carries. Wright carried the ball six times for 52 yards, and he was 3-of-4 for 24 yards and a touchdown through the air. Harris caught one pass for eight yards and a touchdown. Smith had two touchdowns on the evening.
Etowah recorded 269 total yards and limited Moody to only 74 yards of offense.
The Blue Devils travel to Crossville on Friday, Sept. 7, for their first Class 5A, Region 6 game of the season.