Photo: Etowah High’s Trent Davis (left) breaks free from Fort Payne’s Tyler Newton during the Blue Devils’ 21-14 win last Friday (Sept. 28). (Courtesy of Fort Payne Times-Journal)
By Cody Dowler/Fort Payne Time Journal
Fort Payne nearly put an end to Class 5A, No. 3 Etowah’s perfect season last Friday (Sept. 28), but the Wildcats ultimately came up short in a 21-14 loss.
The host Wildcats (2-3, 2-0) put a scare in the Blue Devils (6-0, 3-0) early in the contest when they forced a three-and-out on Etowah’s opening possession. The Wildcat offense quickly faced third-and-9 before quarterback Jordan Bain fired a bullet over the middle to Carter Pinholster, who then raced down the left sideline on his way to a 60-yard touchdown.
Alex McPherson made the extra point to put Fort Payne ahead 7-0 less than four minutes into the game.
Etowah’s next drive saw the Blue Devils catch a break when a long pass had 15 yards added to it following a roughing the passer call against the ‘Cats.
Two plays after the penalty, Etowah’s DeRickey Wright scored on an 8-yard carry with 6:29 left in the opening quarter. Levee Hall blocked Etowah’s extra point to keep the Wildcats out in front by a point.
Etowah quickly got the ball back and moved near midfield before the Fort Payne secondary came up with a big play.
On a pass to a slanting receiver over the middle, Fort Payne cornerback Nalen Dubose jarred the ball lose, which fell into the arms of Hall for an interception.
The Fort Payne offense couldn’t capitalize on the turnover, though, and the Wildcats punted the ball back. The Blue Devils then marched from their own 16 to the Fort Payne 27-yard line before facing fourth-and-long.
The Wildcats came up with the stop when Zach Ridgeway sacked the Etowah quarterback to force a turnover on downs.
On Fort Payne’s following drive, Etowah was called for a pair of offside penalties, setting the ‘Cats up with a chance to open up the playbook on second and short. Bain looked to fire a quick pass to his left, but it was picked off by Wright and returned 39 yards for a Blue Devils’ touchdown. Etowah went for two points and converted to go up 14-7 with 7:20 left in the half.
The ‘Cats tried to answer with a big play immediately when they got the ball back, but a deep pass over the middle was picked off by Wright.
The Blue Devils looked to be in control when their next offensive snap saw tailback Trent Davis pick up 42 yards on the ground. Davis later scored from 15 yards out, but a holding penalty negated the score and gave the Wildcats’ defense another chance to make a defensive stop.
Fort Payne went on to force the Blue Devils into fourth-and-long, where a pass to the end zone was batted away by Hall to force another turnover on downs.
That stop kept the score within reach with Fort Payne trailing 14-7 at halftime.
Etowah started fast in the second half as the visitors looked to put the game out of reach. After forcing a three-and-out, the Blue Devils went on an eight-play, 69-yard drive that was highlighted by a third-and-long pass from Brady Troup to DeAundrea Williams that picked up 46 yards. The series ended on an 18-yard dash to the end zone by Davis to put the Blue Devils up 21-7.
Fort Payne’s next offensive snap ended in a third interception, this one hauled in by Ollie Finch.
But the Wildcat defense stood tall this time and forced a punt, and the Fort Payne offense caught a spark after converting on fourth-and-short on a handoff to Matthew Shaddix.
Three plays later, the ‘Cats cut into the Blue Devil lead with a flea-flicker play that ended in a 44-yard touchdown pass from Bain to Shaddix. McPherson’s extra point made the score 21-14 with 48 second left in the third quarter.
The Fort Payne defense then forced a quick three-and-out, and the following Etowah punt was a low kick that quickly rolled into the arms of Pinholster just beyond midfield.
Pinholster displayed his agility and speed on what could have been a game-tying punt return for a touchdown, but a holding penalty against the ‘Cats backed them up to midfield. The Wildcats fought their way into Etowah territory but couldn’t come up with another score.
Fort Payne had two more chances with the ball late in the fourth, but failed to move the chains on either possession as the clock ran out on the Wildcats’ comeback attempt.
Bain completed 9-of-19 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns. Shaddix caught five passes for 62 yards and a touchdown, while Pinholster hauled in three receptions for 67 yards and a score.
Etowah hosts Pell City this week in non-region action, while Fort Payne hosts Lee-Huntsville.