Blue Devils halt Guntersville winning streak

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By Chris McCarthy/Editor

The Etowah Blue Devils ended two years of frustration last Friday (Sept. 9), and in the process may very well have put themselves in the driver’s seat for the Class 5A, Region 7 title.

Facing a seventh-ranked Guntersville squad that had defeated Etowah by one point over the past two seasons on the way to the region championship, No. 6 Etowah (3-1, 2-0) rode a pair of first-half touchdowns and a stingy defense to register a 14-7 victory over their region rivals in Attalla.

It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pretty. The Blue Devils had to overcome a sluggish offense along with over 150 penalty yards. But Etowah held the visitors scoreless over the final 27 minutes while coming up with key defensive stops in the second half.

EHS head coach Drew Noles acknowledged that the hard-fought win was gratifying after the Blue Devils ended up on the short end of the scoreboard the past two years against their rivals from Marshall County. The victory also snapped Guntersville’s 30-game regular season winning streak.

“We just couldn’t get anything going offensively after the first two touchdowns, plus we had another injury up front. But I thought that our defense played lights out, and finally at the end we were able to close the games out with a couple of first downs. We were able do some things offensively in the first half; we just couldn’t finish drives.”

The teams combined for more than 175 yards in penalties. Etowah was the recipient of nine flags for 85 yards in the second quarter alone.

Emil Smith’s interception at 9:28 of the first period set up Etowah’s first score. Taking over at the their own 3-yard line, the hosts quickly entered Wildcat territory courtesy of a 46-yard run by Caleb Horton. A 15-yard pass from Daulton Hyatt to Smith brought the ball inside the GHS 20, and four plays later Cory Thomas bulled into the end zone from a yard out. Raul Hernandez converted the PAT for the 7-0 lead at 5:47.

Guntersville was forced to punt on the game’s next possession, and on a second down and 36 from the Etowah 25, Hyatt found Horton at midfield. The junior running back eluded a host of Wildcat defenders down the left sideline and into the end zone, providing Etowah with a 14-point advantage with 23 seconds left in the opening quarter.

That was about it for the Blue Devils for the remainder of the first half, as several penalties negated whatever yardage Etowah managed to put together. Guntersville took advantage of the stalled Etowah offense near the end of the second quarter when C.J. Williamson made a one-handed grab of a Major Henderson pass for a 16-yard touchdown. Wolis Jocelyn’s PAT drew the Wildcats within 14-7 with 3:13 left before intermission.

“We did have some senseless penalties, and I think that they were out of pure emotion,” said Noles. “I’m proud of our effort, but what we don’t teach is stuff [coming] after the play. We preach to our kids to hold their composure, and we lost our composure at times. I told our kids at halftime that we were our own worst enemy in the second quarter and that we couldn’t continue to shoot ourselves in the foot.”

The third quarter featured defense, defense and more defense. The teams combined to run just 20 plays from scrimmage while amassing 25 net yards.

The Etowah offense finally got into gear in the game’s final few minutes. After Malik Wilson knocked down a Guntersville pass attempt on fourth down, the Blue Devils had the ball at the EHS 27 with 2:23 left in the game. On the second play from scrimmage, Thomas broke free for a 45-yard gain to the Wildcat 25. A couple more penalties hampered Etowah’s efforts to run out the clock, but the Blue Devils eventually accomplished that goal to secure the win.

Thomas finished with 112 rushing yards on 18 carries, while Horton carried nine times for 95 yards.

Hyatt was 11 of 15 in passing for 144 yards. Smith caught eight passes for 62 yards.

Henderson was Guntersville’s leading rusher with 17 carries for 83 yards. He completed 5-of-11 passes for 99 yards. Archer Charles added 56 rushing yards on 14 attempts.

“We’ve lost to [Guntersville] by one point each of the last two years, and that’s been hard to take,” said Noles. “Being 2-0 in the region right now is the best that we can be, and we’ve going into Alexandria [this] week. We’re beat up big-time after tonight, but we can’t have a letdown, that’s for sure.”

 

 

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