Photo: Etowah High’s Trent Davis runs for one of his four touchdowns during the Blue Devils’ 49-14 victory over Northside in the Class 4A quarterfinals last Friday (Nov. 20) in Attalla. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
For the first time in 21 years, an Etowah High football team will play during the Thanksgiving break.
Senior halfback Trent Davis scored four touchdowns and the Blue Devil defense pitched a shutout in the second half en route to a 49-14 victory over Northside in the Class 4A quarterfinals last Friday (Nov. 20) in Attalla.
Etowah (9-3) hosts Gordo in the state semifinals on November 28, with the winner earning a berth in the state championship on December 4 at the University of Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.
The turning point during last Friday’s game came early in the third quarter when the Blue Devils, who were leading only by seven points at the time, scored two touchdowns in a span of 2:25.
Northside head coach Chris Hilliker elected to try an onside kick on the opening kickoff of the second half, a decision that did not turn out well for the visitors after the ball was recovered by Etowah’s Caleb Freeman at the Blue Devils 47.
Quarterback Trace Thompson and receiver Ollie Finch quickly hooked up on a post route for 45 yards to the Ram 9, from where Trent Davis scored on the next play to put the hosts ahead 28-14.
Three plays into the ensuing Northside possession, Tae Wright picked off a pass attempt and took it to the house from midfield. The touchdown was called back on a holding penalty, but four plays later, Trent Davis took a screen pass 28 yards for a touchdown at the 8:48 mark of the third quarter.
The Rams (10-3) never recovered from that 14-point outburst, making only three non-penalty first downs the rest of way while twice turning the ball over.
While the Blue Devil defense kept Northside out of the end zone over the final 24 minutes, Etowah added a pair of touchdowns to seal the win.
The Blue Devils finished with 449 total yards while limiting Northside to 208, 97 of which came after halftime. The Ram’s seven series in the second half ended with two interceptions, two lost fumbles, a punt, a failed fourth down conversion attempt and the final buzzer.
“We came out on the second half and played the way we’re supposed to play,” said Etowah head coach Ryan Locke. “We could never get a consistent drive going, but I’m not going complain on how we score points.”
Trent Davis finished with 215 total yards. He rushed 13 times for 102 yards and two touchdowns and caught three passes for 113 yards and two TDs.
Thompson was 13 for 22 in passing for 314 yards and three touchdowns.
NyNy Davis had five receptions for 74 yards, while Finch caught four passes for 132 yards and a score.
“I was really proud of the way our kids responded and played the game the right way,” said Locke. “Northside’s got a really good football team and I’ve got a lot of respect for Coach Hillker and his staff. Their kids were prepared, and they came out and played hard.”
Operating out of the single wing formation, Northside drained over half of the first quarter clock with a 12-play drive, but the 58-yard possession stalled when the Blue Devils held on fourth down at the Etowah 28 yard line.
On Etowah’s first play from scrimmage, Thompson found Finch for a 78-yard touchdown pass. Alejandro Corona pushed through the first of his seven extra points to give Etowah the lead for good.
On the Blue Devils’ third series, Thompson was almost sacked before he scrambled away from pressure and dumped the ball off to Trent Davis, who eluded the Ram defenders for a 39-yard touchdown 14 seconds into the second period.
Switching to the spread offense early in the second quarter, Northside got on the scoreboard with Braden Green’s 10-yard touchdown run and Evan Gregg’s PAT at 7:25, but Etowah regained its double-digit lead a minute and 13 seconds later on Trent Davis’ 13-yard scoring run.
The Blue Devils were driving inside Ram territory late in the first half when Northside recovered a fumble near midfield. Three plays later, Green threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Wes Maluda, drawing the visitors within 21-14 just before halftime.
“We prepared for [Northside’s] single wing stuff all week, and I didn’t think that we’d see their spread that early in the game,” said Locke. “That kind of threw us for a loop and we didn’t adjust very well. But we got them settled down at halftime, and our defensive coaches made some great adjustments and our kids executed.”
It was all Etowah in the second half.
Trent Davis’ two quick scores pushed the advantage to 35-14, and NyNy Davis 9-yard TD run at 4:03 of the third made it 42-14.
Wright’s second interception of the night later in the period did not lead to points, but any possibility of a Northside comeback ended with Caleb Freeman’s scoop and score with 8:40 remaining in the game.
For the Rams, Green completed 8 of 19 passes for 88 yards. Green also was Northside’s leading rusher with 56 yards on 18 carries. Maluda had five receptions for 86 yards.
Locke acknowledged that the Blue Devils will have their hands full against Gordo, who finished the regular season as the third ranked team in Class 4A.
“I’ve seen enough of them to know that they’re a really good team. They’re big, they’re athletic and they’ve got some really good skill players. The quarterback can throw it, they can run it and they’ve got a big offensive line. It will be a challenge for us, for sure. We’ll definitely have to bring our ‘A’ game.”
Locke noted that just to play an entire season amidst the COVID-19 concern was a blessing.
“This season really has been from practice to practice and day to day instead of game to game and week to week. To have this opportunity in this particular year is awesome. We’re just thankful to be playing another week.”