Blue Devils draw tough third seed

 Russellville (8-2) at Etowah (7-3)
Series record: Russellville 2, Etowah 0
Last meeting: 2010 Russellville 41-12
Last week: Glencoe 19, Etowah 6; Russellville 58, Fayette County 27

By Gene Stanley/Messenger Sports Correspondent

It wasn’t long ago that the name Russellville put fear in the hearts of many an opponent.

Since the playoff system went into effect in 1967, the Golden Tigers have played in nine state championship games, as recently as 2008 and ‘09.

Oddly enough, since the current five-tier system took hold, Russellville has lost in the finals seven times and have yet to win the big trophy. The last state championship actually came in 1968 (also ‘67), when there were only two rounds of playoffs and only three classifications.

Russellville also won four mythical state championships before the playoff system started.

Etowah coach Sam McCorkle is still impressed with the Golden Tigers.

“They’re the best three seed in 5A,” he said. “They’re the best team we’ve faced this year.”

So if they’re that good, how did Russellville fall to a three seed, you ask?

Simple. Cullman eked out a 21-20 victory while Hartselle beat Cullman and Russellville defeated Hartselle, creating the dreaded three-way tie. Muscle Shoals won the region.

“(Russellville) has a big, strong line – on both sides – and have a strong running game,” McCorkle said. “Their quarterback (Landon Smothers) is very athletic. He’s not a great passer but he does what he needs to do in their system. And (C.J.) Posey is their athlete. They do whatever they can to get him the ball.”

Since their loss to Cullman, the Golden Tigers have won four games in a row.

McCorkle thinks the tough region play will also help Russellville, as the top four teams are all so stout.

“That may be the toughest region in 5A, top to bottom,” he said. “For the defending state champions (Hartselle) to be a four seed tells you something.”

With three appearances in the state title game, Etowah’s tally isn’t as impressive as Russellville’s, but the Blue Devils won it all in 1999. There is also one mythical state championship.

Etowah’s big streak came in the middle of the season with five consecutive victories. However, a loss in Week 8 and a loss last week has the Blue Devils seemingly on the ropes.

“I expect our guys to play hard,” McCorkle said. “We’ve got to eliminate the penalties and hang onto the ball better. We’ll have to play our best to have a chance to win.”

Last week against Glencoe, the Blue Devils turned the ball over five times.

A large crowd is expected, as Etowah is the only home team in Etowah County this week. McCorkle hopes that some packed home bleachers will add fuel to the Blue Devils’ fire.

Last week against Glencoe, Dominic Pinson finished with 45 yards rushing on 11 carries, while Tyler Bishop completed 7-of-18 passes for 107 yards.

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