2015 Football Preview: Veteran Blue Devils set for successful season

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By Stan Veitch/Sports Correspondent

Etowah High doesn’t have many seniors this year, but coach Drew Noles said they are “very good” seniors.

“There is a lot of senior experience at the skill positions,” Noles said. “And a lot of our lower classmen are also experienced.”

In fact, the entire offensive backfield returns with junior quarterback Andy Noles along with running backs Paul Ruiz, Stacy Williams and Caleb Horton. 

Ruiz and Williams are seniors while Horton is a sophomore. Noles threw for 397 yards and six touchdowns last year.

“The running backs could be our biggest asset,” Drew Noles said.

Ruiz broke the 1,500-yard mark last year, with Williams tacking on more than 700. Horton finished with 348 combined rushing and receiving yards. Ruiz also scored 21 touchdowns on the way to being named second-team all-state and all-region.

Juniors Oman Smothers, Lee Green, Kaleb Nelms and Malik Wilson make up a receiving corps that coach Noles thinks has a chance to be very good. Smothers had 47 tackles and four interceptions last season on defense, while Nelms had 49.

Linemen Austin Gibbs, Peyton Nance, Dylan Carden and Austin McDaniel are all underclassmen with game experience. 

Ditto with seniors Darius Moore and Crishun Young.

Last season, linebacker Moore made first-team All-State, finishing with 160 tackles, five sacks and five forced fumbles. Young was second-team All-State, as he tallied 81 tackles (27 for loss) and 7.5 sacks as a defensive lineman.

This will be Gibbs’ fourth year to play and will be Nance’s third.

The Blue Devils enter the season ranked No. 6 by the Alabama Sports Writers Association.

“The main thing is that we’ve got to improve and not stay stagnant,” Drew Noles said. “We’re lacking depth in some positions, so staying away from injuries will be big, too.”

Assistant coaches are B.J. Brooks, B.J. Jones, Russ Pilkington, David Rose, Jamison Wadley, Mario Duster and Matthew Bone.

Etowah shares Class 5A, Region 7 with Boaz, But-ler, Douglas, Fairview, Guntersville, Madison County and Randolph.

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