By Cole Frederick/Fort Payne Times-Journal
Etowah held off a furious second-half comeback attempt by Fort Payne to hold on for a 21-16 victory last Friday (Sept. 23) at FPHS.
The Blue Devils’ fourth straight win moved then to 5-1, 3-0 on the season.
The Wildcats (0-5) trailed 21-3 at halftime, but the offense started to click in the second half. On the second drive of the third quarter, Fort Payne scored in four plays on a six-yard touchdown run from J.C. Groat to close the gap to 21-10.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Fort Payne (0-5) drove the ball 85 yards on six plays to move within one possession. Quarterback Jay Tyler Ellis hit Jordan Bain for a 12-yard touchdown pass to make the score 21-16 with 5:39 remaining in the game.
The two-point conversion attempt failed, however, and on the following possession Etowah picked up several first downs to close out the game.
“We were really resilient tonight,” said Etowah head coach Drew Noles. “We’ve lost two offensive linemen and had a couple more go out tonight. We got really limited in what we can do offensively but we found another way to win.”
The Wildcats scored on their opening possession of the game after kicker Evan McPherson booted the second-longest field goal in school history. Fort Payne’s drive stalled after the Wildcats gained 28 yards in six plays to the Blue Devil 35-yard line. McPherson’s kick had plenty of distance and easily sailed through the uprights. His older brother, Logan, kicked a 57-yard field goal in 2012.
The Wildcats led 3-0 after one quarter of play, but Etowah scored on three consecutive drives in the second quarter.
The first scoring drive began on the Etowah 15-yard line and took 13 plays. Blue Devil quarterback and University of Arkansas commitment Daulton Hyatt connected with Lovell Cylar for a 15-yard touchdown on fourth and 12 with 11:11 remaining in the first half.
The ensuing kickoff, which was kicked high in the air and traveled only about 15 yards, was muffed by the Wildcats and recovered by the Blue Devils on the Fort Payne 46. Four plays later, Hyatt hit Emil Smith for a 32-yard touchdown to give Etowah a 14-3 lead.
After forcing a Fort Payne punt, Etowah took over on its own 10. On the first play of the drive, Cory Thomas took the handoff, evaded several Wildcat defenders and sprinted for a 90-yard touchdown. Etowah took a 21-3 lead into the locker room.
Hyatt finished the game 12-18 passing for 146 yards and two touchdowns. Thomas rushed 18 times for 139 yards and one touchdown, while Caleb Horton rushed 15 times for 73 yards.
For the Wildcats, Groat carried the ball 14 times for 86 yards and touchdown. Jay Tyler Ellis finished 7-for-20 in passing for 120 yards and a touchdown.
“I’m so proud of our kids,” said Noles. “Fort Payne has a great program, and it’s always good to come up here and get a win. I’m tickled to death to be sitting here at 5-1 after the schedule we’ve played.”
Etowah hosts Arab in a Class 5A, Region 7 this week (Sept. 30).