Photo: Etowah High’s Brady Troup looks for an open receiver as Trent Davis (center) provides protection during the Blue Devils’ 42-0 win on Sept. 21. (Travis Greene)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
In the teams’ first region game in five years, Etowah dominated Southside in all three phases of the game en route to a 42-0 Class 5A, Region 6 win last Friday (Sept. 21) at Barney Hood Stadium. It was Etowah’s second straight win in the series, which the Blue Devils lead by a 27-11-1 margin.
The No. 2 Blue Devils (5-0, 3-0) quieted the home crowd early on, as they scored touchdowns on five of their first six possessions for a 35-0 lead at halftime.
The Etowah defense was just as impressive, limiting the hosts to 55 total yards and three first downs, with two of those first downs coming on the final series of the game when the outcome was already decided. The Blue Devils finished with 411 total yards.
The Blue Devils effectively shut down the Southside offense on the way to pitching their third shutout in the past four games. Out of the Panthers’ nine possessions, seven ended in punts, two on turnovers and one on a failed fourth down conversion attempt.
Over the past four games, Etowah has outscored the opposition by a 149-7 margin.
“I thought that the defense played great; we executed our plan and were very physical,” said Etowah head coach Drew Noles. “We worked hard this week in practice on eliminating penalties and the bad plays, and I thought that we were a lot cleaner tonight. Knowing that (Southside) had worked really hard on what we had been doing, we came out tonight with something different to look at. We were able to convert on third downs a lot and we were able to spread the ball around.”
The Blue Devils also utilized three players at quarterback with DeRickey Wright, Brady Troup and Emil Smith.
“I know we’ve been pretty vanilla (on offense), but we’ve been kind of building this for a while, and maybe we can advance it a little bit,” said Noles. “I thought all our quarterbacks and running backs played well, as well as our (offensive) line.”
Troup completed 7 of 9 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown, while Wright was 3 of 5 in passing for 93 yards and a TD.
Trent Davis paced the Etowah ground game with 80 yards on five carries, while Wright rushed five times for 46 yards. Davis also had four receptions for 58 yards, while Deaundrea Williams caught three passes for 93 yards.
As for the Blue Devils’ special teams, Etowah enjoyed good field position for much of the night, as seven of its 11 offensive series started at or near midfield.
“I thought that was a big part of the game,” said Noles. “You can kind of let your hair down a little bit when that happens, because it’s tough when you’re backed up. I also think Emil being back there (as a returner) affects the punts.”
Etowah rolled out to a 14-0 lead after one quarter. Helped by a 30-yard run by Wright and a 25-yard Wright-to-Williams pass completion, the game’s opening drive ended in Wright’s 2-yard touchdown run and the first of Eric Edge’s six extra points.
Following two straight three-and-outs by the Panthers (1-3, 1-1), Wright and Williams connected for a 52-yard touchdown in the final minute of the opening period.
On the next play from scrimmage, Etowah linebacker Carter Dingler recovered a fumble near midfield. Three plays later, Troup hit Smith for a 50-yard touchdown pass for a 21-point lead.
Midway through the second quarter, Troup and Trent Davis hooked up on pass plays of 27, 18 and 15 yards to set up Wright’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Williams with 5:19 remaining before the half.
The ensuing Southside possession netted minus-2 yards, and the Blue Devils responded with Davis’ 46-yard touchdown run at the 3:37 mark of the second quarter.
Etowah capped the scoring on its initial drive of the second half, an eight-play, 90-yard series that featured a 30-yard run by Trent Davis and a 23-yard pass from Troup to Williams. The possession was capped by Ny Ny Davis’ 10-yard touchdown run at 5:25 of the third period.
The Panthers made it inside the Etowah 10 in the last few minutes of the game, but Etowah recovered a fumble to preserve the shutout.
“It was about what we expected; not the outcome, but how good Etowah is,” said Southside head coach Ron Daugherty. “Every level of their defense is so good and so fast. We made some mistakes that we couldn’t overcome, but a lot of it was due to the fact that Etowah is a good ball team. Their offense came out clicking and we made a couple of mistakes and got behind.
“I am anxious to watch the (game) film, because I really don’t think I can say that we didn’t play hard. We told the kids at halftime that we wanted to see if we had a team that’s ready to take the next step and make the playoffs. I believe we do; we’ve just got a lot of work to do in order to get there.”
Both teams step out of region play this Friday (Sept. 28). Etowah visits Fort Payne, while Southside hosts Helena.
“We now have to play three straight weeks against teams coming off a bye week,” said Noles.
“It will be a tough challenge, but we just have to work hard and keep getting better. But I do think tonight was the most complete game we’ve played this year.”