Photo: Etowah’s Omareon Finch (19) blocks Gordo’s Benn Capps as NyNy Davis gains yardage during the Blue Devils’ 21-14 loss in the Class 4A state football semifinals on Nov. 27 in Attalla. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Etowah’s hopes of playing for a state football championship for the first time since 1999 ended last Friday (Nov. 27) in Attalla.
The Blue Devils (9-4) nearly overcame a 14-point second half deficit but ultimately came up short in a 21-14 loss to Gordo in the Class 4A semifinals. Gordo (13-1) will face Handley in the state championship this Friday (Dec. 4) at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.
A major factor in the outcome was points off turnovers. The Green Wave scored 14 points off two Etowah fumbles, while the hosts converted a Gordo turnover into a touchdown.
Trailing 21-7 midway through the fourth quarter, the Blue Devils started with good field position at the Green Wave 48-yard line. A 40-yard pass play from Trace Thompson to NyNy Davis moved the Blue Devils to the 8, but the Gordo defense stopped halfback Trent Davis at the 1 on fourth down with just under five minutes remaining in the game.
The visitors could have run out the clock with a couple of first downs, but the Green Wave fumbled the ball in the end zone on the first play of the drive, and Etowah’s Jacob Sanford recovered for the score. Alejandro Corona pushed through the extra point, cutting the Gordo lead to seven points at the 4:53 mark of the fourth quarter.
Gordo recovered the ensuing onside kick, but the Blue Devils forced a three-and-out and took over at their own 36 with 3:05 remaining. Respective 15-yard pass completions to NyNy Davis and Trent Davis helped get Etowah to Green Wave 28. But Gordo’s Hunter Odgen fell on a fumble to halt the possession with 1:35 left.
The Green Wave failed to get a first down and the Blue Devils got the ball back with 28 seconds remaining, but time ran out with Etowah at the Gordo 43.
The Blue Devils finished with a 328 to 281 advantage in total yards and limited the visitors to 98 rushing yards. But Gordo held Etowah to well under the Blue Devils’ average of 33.6 points per game while holding them to one offensive touchdown.
“Turnovers cost us,” said Etowah head coach Ryan Locke. “I thought we battled hard, but you just can’t win if you turn the ball over. You’ve got to give Gordo a lot of credit; they played well enough to win, and best of luck to them as they move on.”
Trent Davis finished with 155 total yards. He rushed 20 times for 65 yards and caught seven passes for 90 yards.
Thompson was 17 for 29 in passing for 205 yards and a touchdown.
NyNy Davis had four receptions for 63 yards while gaining 43 yards on three carries. Ollie Finch and Brevan Knight each caught two passes.
The Blue Devils did not have much room to operate during the first half, running just 20 plays and using only 9:36 worth of clock time. But Etowah’s second series of the game – an eight-play, 74-yard possession – resulted in Thompson’s 29-yard touchdown pass to Trent Davis at 1:49 of the first quarter.
The Green Wave tied the game early in the second period on Tanner Bailey’s 1-yard TD keeper.
Gordo took the lead for good late in the first half. Following an interception by Ben Capps, the Green Wave put together a 12-play, 80-yard series that was capped by Bailey’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Ogden with 11.5 seconds left before halftime.
Etowah had a chance to tie the game at 14-14 on the ensuing kickoff when Trent Davis returned the ball 75 yards, but the senior halfback was tackled inside the Gordo 20 as the first half horn sounded.
Matters grew worse for the hosts shortly following intermission.
Two plays into the initial drive of the second half, Gordo’s Ike Byrd recovered an Etowah fumble at the Blue Devil 30. Bailey’s 7-yard touchdown pass to J.T. Billups and Caleb Jennings’ PAT soon made it 21-7, a deficit that Etowah could not overcome.
Bailey completed 17 of 29 passes for 183 yards. Billups, Ogden, Capps and Rayshawn Williams each had three catches. Williams paced the Green Wave ground game with 75 yards on 22 rushes.
“I hate it for our kids, especially our seniors,” said Locke. “I was really proud of their resiliency tonight and the way they battled back. I hate it that I couldn’t do more to help them. These seniors helped us get over the hump and accomplish something that hadn’t been done for 21 years and set a standard that we’ve got to continue to work on.”