Photo: Coosa Christian and Westbrook Christian kick off the local high school football season on Aug. 22 in Rainbow City. Pictured is action from the teams’ 2018 game in Gadsden. (Gary Wells)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
With the local high school football season on the horizon, it’s worth taking a look at games between Etowah County teams. The intra-county slate is the same as last year expect for the venues.
Thursday, Aug. 22
Coosa Christian at Westbrook Christian
2018 result: Westbrook 35, Coosa 6
Series record : Westbrook 15, Coosa 9
Last year’s game, the first between the schools since 2011, was not the blowout that the final score indicated. The Conquerors trailed by 15 points until midway through the fourth quarter, at which point the Warriors scored two touchdowns in a span of 16 seconds. This contest will feature the head coaching debut of both Westbrook’s Drew Noles (late of Etowah) and Coosa’s Rod Cates. Both teams also will be breaking in new starting quarterbacks. The Conquerors possess a potent weapon in senior running back Dartavious Britton, a four-year starter and second-team all-state selection who finished last year’s game with 150 combined yards. One thing Coosa must do is cut down on the self-inflicted damage. Last year, the Conquerors were flagged 10 times for 90 yards. If that happens again, Coosa will not depart Rainbow City victorious.
Friday, Aug. 23
Etowah at Gadsden City
2018 result: Etowah 32, GCHS 23
Series record: GCHS 4, Etowah 1
In what was perhaps the best intra-coun-ty game of the 2018 season, the Blue Devils earned their first win of the series in spectacular fashion with a pair of defensive touchdowns over the last two minutes and 16 seconds of the game. For what it’s worth, the teams went in opposite directions the remainder of the season. The Blue Devils did not lose until the state quarterfinals, while the Titans dropped their next five games en route to a 3-7 record. This time around, the game is at GCHS, and both team have a new head coach – Ali Smith (interim) at GCHS and John Holladay at Etowah. An intriguing side story is Gadsden City senior cornerback/quarterback DeRicky Wright, who transferred from Etowah fo-llowing the end of the 2018-19 school year. It will be interesting to see what plans Holladay and his staff come up with to neutralize the Ole Miss commitment, who can impact the game on both sides of the ball.
Thursday, Aug. 29
Southside at Hokes Bluff
2018 result: Hokes Bluff 42, SHS 13
Series record: Hokes Bluff 37,
Southside 29 (three ties)
After losing the past two games to his alma mater, Southside head caoch Ron Daugherty would prefer that the Panthers start out on the proverbial right foot this time around. Since Daughery arrived on campus seven years ago, Southside’s bread and butter plays on offense has been various versions of Student Body Left and Student Body Right. But for the first time in four years, the Panthers will not have Kenneth Bothwell, Jr., lined up at halfback on opening night. The Eagles have no such issues at the position with three-time all-state selection and 2018 Class 4A Back of the Year finalist Darrian Meads, who rushed for 201 yards and two touchdowns in last year’s game. Meads and his fellow seniors would like nothing better than to kick off their final season with a dominant game against their rivals from Southside and Rainbow City.
Friday, Sept. 6
Sardis at Southside
2018 result: Southside, 14, Sardis 0
Series record: Southside 19,
Sardis 11 (two ties)
Last year’s outcome came down the fact that Southside had Kenneth Bothwell and Sardis did not. The Lions effectively held Bothwell in check for all but two plays – a 75-yard touchdown catch on the game’s first play from scrimmage and a 35-yard run that set up his winning score late in the fourth quarter. Bothwell is now playing for a Kansas junior college, however, and, just like last season, the outcome of this Class 5A, Region 7 game could go a long way in determining who plays in Week 11 and who stays home.
Friday, Sept. 13
Etowah at Sardis
2018 result: Etowah 36, Sardis 0
Series record: Etowah 3, Sardis 0
It was nolo contendere for the Blue Devils in last year’s game, the first between the schools since 1963. One thing the Lions need not be concerned about this year is the whereabouts of quarterback/cornerback DeRicky Wright, who scored four touchdowns in last year’s game. The Ole Miss commitment is at Gadsden City for his senior year. This is another region game that will have playoff implications as the season progresses.
West End at Westbrook Christian
2018 result: Westbrook 62, West End 35
Series record: West End 9, Westbrook 6
The smoke from last season’s shootout is still drifting around Walnut Grove. The Class 2A, Region 6 rivals combined for 97 points and 1,037 yards in what can best be described as a primer for ma-tador-style defense. West End junior Eli Pearce and senior Jeremiah Roberson torched the Warrior defense for 11 catches, 282 yards and four touchdowns in last year’s game.Westbrook, which lost its entire offensive backfield to graduation, must trim the numbers at least by half in order to come away with a win.
Friday, Sept. 20
Southside at Etowah
2018 result: Etowah 42, Southside 0
Series record: Etowah 27, Southside 11 (one tie)
The 2018 postgame quote from Ron Daugherty said it all: “It was about what we expected; not the outcome, but how good Etowah is.” Indeed. The Blue Devils scored touchdowns on five of their first six possessions and finished with 411 total yards. The Etowah defense limited the hosts to 55 total yards and three first downs. With both teams breaking in several greenhorns on both sides of the ball, this year’s contest should be more competitive. With the game in Attalla, the Panthers especially cannot afford a slow start.
Friday, Sept. 27
Hokes Bluff at Glencoe
2018 result: Hokes Bluff 47, Glencoe 7
Series record: Glencoe 42, Hokes Bluff 32 (one tie)
With Meads once again lined up in the Hokes Bluff backfield, the 75th meeting of these ancient rivals might very well be a carbon copy of the 2018 contest. The Yellow Jackets hung tough for a quarter last year before the Eagles scored on seven straight possessions. Meads rushed for 167 yards and four touchdowns in a little over two quarters of action. No doubt that Glencoe will have several players birddogging Meads all night, but the senior halfback’s powerful north-south running style tends to wear down even the best of defenses.
Friday, Oct. 11
Westbrook at Gaston
2018 result: Westbrook 48, Gaston 0
Series record: Gaston 11, Westbrook 7
With the game at Shinbone Ridge this year, the Bulldogs would like to avoid a third straight shutout at the hands of their 2A, Region 6 rival.
West End at Gaston
2018 result: Gaston 42, West End 34
Series record: West End 23, Gaston 16 (one tie)
The Bulldogs notched their lone win of the 2018 season at the expense of the Patriots. It was also Gaston head coach Swane Morris’ 100th career victory. Gaston needed every bit of the since-graduated Kameron Hawkins’ career-high 434 yards and four touchdowns, however, as West End made it inside the Bulldog 20-yard line in the last minute of the game before coming up short on a fourth down conversion attempt. If both teams are in better shape region-wise when the game rolls around, a playoff berth could be at stake.
Friday, Nov. 1
Sardis at Hokes Bluff
2018 result: Hokes Bluff 55, Sardis 28
Series record: Hokes Bluff 27, Sardis 17 (three ties)
Meads gouged the Lions for 257 rushing yards and five touchdowns in last year’s game, leading to this remark from Sardis head coach Gene Hill: “[Hokes Bluff] lined up and ran [the ball] on us at will.” In other seasons, hanging 28 points on Hokes Bluff would have been en-ough to win. It obviously wasn’t enough last year, and with Meads back in the stable, perhaps not enough this season, either.
Glencoe at West End
2018 result: Glencoe 40, West End 6
Series record: Glencoe 15, West End 9 (one tie)
In avoiding its first winless season since 1988, Glencoe steamrolled the Patriots to the tune of 445 total yards, including 421 yards on the ground. It was the first victory at his alma mater for head coach Brian Alred, an All-Etowah County linebacker for the Yellow Jackets in the late 1990s. Said West End head coach Kyle Davis, whose Patriots similarly avoided a winless season with a victory over Woodland the week before: “Maybe we felt like our season was accomplished by getting a win last week. We played like we had other places to be. It seemed like our kids never got off the bus.” At least West End won’t have that as an issue this year, with the game being played in Walnut Grove.