Photo: Etowah High’s William Cox (34) provides blocking for Trent Davis (3) as Central Clay County’s Michael Garrett (2) pursues during the Blue Devils’35-13 loss in the Class 5A state football quarterfinals last Friday (Nov. 23) in Attalla. (Gary Wells)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
The stingy Etowah defense finally met its match last Friday (Nov. 23) in Attalla.
After allowing an average of four points over the previous 11 games, the top-ranked Blue Devils yielded 31 more than that in a 35-13 loss to Central Clay County in the Class 5A state quarterfinals at James Glover Field.
Playing on a soggy surface for much of the game, the Etowah offense managed only four non-penalty first downs while finding the end zone just once. That touchdown came on a 20-yard run by Deaundrea Williams with 1:30 remaining, by which point the outcome was all but decided.
The Blue Devils’ other score was a kickoff return for a touchdown by Ny Ny Davis six minutes into the fourth quarter. That big special teams play trimmed the Central Clay lead to 28-6, but the Volunteers added another seven points less than two minutes later to essentially put the game out of reach.
Clay Central (10-3) hosts Mortimer Jordan in the state semifinals this Friday (Nov. 30) in Lineville.
The Blue Devils (12-1) finished with198 total yards, but had only 53 yards by halftime and 49 at the end of the third quarter. Out of Etowah’s 10 offensive possessions, four ended on punts, three on failed fourth down conversion attempts and two on turnovers.
“We knew [Central Clay] had a great team, and they whipped us pretty good,” said Etowah head coach Drew Noles. “I thought we played pretty good defensively on the first half, except for a couple of long passes. But we couldn’t get off the field, and offensively, we just couldn’t get it going. We had penalty after penalty and everything just snowballed.”
The Blue Devils were flagged 15 times for 155 yards. Six of those penalties were for personal fouls.
“We lost our composure some, which I’m very disappointed in, because we’re better than that,” said Noles. “That’s something we’ve worked on, and we didn’t do a good job of that tonight.”
Trent Davis paced the Etowah ground game with 65 yards on 11 carries. Brady Troup was 10 for 20 in passing for 105 yards.
The pair of big Central Clay plays that Noles referred to were pass completions of 37 and 36 yards from quarterback Phillip Ogles to receiver Shamari Simmons early in the game. Both plays led directly to touchdowns; the first a 1-yard scoring run by Quentin Knight at 5:25 of the first quarter and the second on Ogles’ 1-yard TD keeper as the first quarter clock expired. Clay Knight made both extra points to put the hosts in a 14-point hole 12 minutes into the game.
Etowah’s first two offensive possessions resulted in three-and-outs with 12 total yards. Carter Dingler’s fumble recovery on the game’s opening drive went for naught. The Blue Devils also failed to capitalize on Ny Ny Davis’ interception late in the second period, sending the Volunteers into halftime with a 14-0 lead.
The opening possession of the second half ended badly for Etowah when Central Clay recovered a fumble at the Blue Devil 30-yard line. The Etowah defense held on fourth down on the ensuing drive, but the following Blue Devil series ended after two plays when Simmons intercepted a pass and took it to the house from 40 yards out.
“That was a big play,” said Noles. “I felt like we were in the game at 14-0, and getting behind 21-0 at that point was tough.”
A 60-yard pass from Troup to Emil Smith brought the hosts to the Central Clay 22 late in the quarter, but the hosts wound up netting two yards and eventually turned the ball over on downs.
The Vols’ ensuing 70-yard, nine-play possession took almost six minutes off the clock and resulted in Micah Garrett’s 6-yard touchdown run at 6:21 of the fourth quarter.
Ny Ny Davis returned the following kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown, but Michael Garrett’s 45-yard TD run with 4:12 left effectively secured the win for the Volunteers.
Michael Garrett finished with 62 rushing yards on 10 carries, while Knight ran 18 times for 44 yards.