By Chris McCarthy/Editor
It’s not often at any level of football when you turn the ball over five times and wind up of the top half of the scoreboard.
Etowah High shook off three lost fumbles and a pair of interceptions to pull out a 21-20 overtime victory over Class 5A, Region 7 rival Randolph on Friday (Sept. 11) in Attalla.
William Allison’s 10-yard touchdown on the first play of the extra session put the Blue Raiders ahead 20-14, but the snap was bad on the extra point and Allison, who was the holder, was sacked.
The Blue Devils took over, and a pair of runs by Paul Ruiz brought the Blue Devils (2-2, 2-0) to the 3. Stacy Williams capped his 100-yard rushing night with a 3-yard touchdown, setting up the all-important PAT attempt from Raul Hernandez. The sophomore kicker promptly cleared the uprights to secure Etowah’s second straight win after an 0-2 start.
“I was very excited for Paul and Stacy to produce at the end like they did,” said EHS head coach Drew Noles. “There’s not many teams in the state that have a 1-2 punch like that. Randolph’s a very small team for 5A, but they’re a very good team that’s got some very good players. People around here might not have known about them, but they do now.”
Noles acknowledged that his team was fortunate that Randolph managed covert those turnovers into only seven points.
“We gave [Randolph] every chance to win with all the turnovers, but I thought our defense played well,” he said. “I thought our backs ran the ball pretty well and we blocked pretty well, and I think we dominated the game statistically. I thought our game plan was fine, but we kept putting the ball on the ground. That’s something that we hadn’t done the past two weeks, and if we continue to do that, we won’t win many games.”
Etowah amassed 374 total yards – including 293 on the ground – to Randolph’s 173.
“We also have to quit being a team that can only score on big plays, and tonight we finally were able to put together a few drives,” said Noles. “We had every chance to lay down, but we didn’t. Hopefully we can take some lessons from tonight.”-
With the game tied at 7-7 at halftime, the Raiders opened the second half with a 61-yard, 8-play drive that was capped with Forrest Webber’s 16-yard touchdown pass to Williams at 7:17 of the third quarter.
Etowah fumbled the ball away on its next two possessions, but the Blue Devil defense held the fort by forcing a pair of three-and-outs.
The Etowah offense finally hit pay dirt on its third series of the second half. Facing a fourth down and 9 from the Blue Devil 29, Noles called for a fake put, and quarterback Andy Noles hooked up with Oman Smothers for 27 yards and a first down in Randolph territory.
Alternating runs by Ruiz and Williams brought the ball to the 11, where Williams ran it in. Hernandez pushed through the PAT to knot the game at 14-14 at the 7:38 mark of the third.
The Etowah defense continued to harass the Raiders, with Darius Moore sacking Webber on fourth down on the ensuing series. But the Blue Devils’ biggest defensive play of the night occurred in the final minutes of regulation. With the visitors driving inside the Etowah 35, Brailen Ball fell on a fumble to diffuse the scoring threat and provide the hosts an opportunity in overtime.
Williams rushed 22 times for 146 yards, while Ruiz finished with 137 yards on 22 carries. Andy Noles completed 4-of-7 passes for 81 yards.
The Blue Devils’ first three possessions of the game ended in a failed fourth down conversion, an interception and a lost fumble, but the Attalla squad eventually got on the scoreboard by way of Noles’ 38-yard touchdown pass to Ruiz at 5:47 of the second quarter.
Etowah’s fourth miscue was costly, however, as a lost fumble led to Allison’s 17-yard touchdown pass to Griffin Widner and tied the game at 7-7 with 2:16 left before intermission.
“We had five starters out, but I think we’ll get several of them back for next week,” said Drew Noles. “What I am proud of tonight is that we played with character. Our kids feel good about themselves right now, but we know that we have a long way to go. We’ll work on improving, but it’s a lot easier to work on things after you win.”
Etowah resumes region play this Friday (Sept. 18) at home against Fairview.