Photo: Etowah High’s Jaylon Billingsley tackles Alexandria’s C.J. Orr for a loss during the Blue Devils’ 34-10 Class 5A, Region 6 victory last Friday (Oct. 18) in Attalla. (Travis Greene)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Seventh-ranked Etowah weathered a tight first 18 minutes against No. 6 Alexandria last Friday (Oct. 18) in Attalla before pulling away for a 34-10 win and the team’s third straight Class 5A Region 6 title.
The Blue Devils scored 28 unanswered points while holding a Valley Cub offense to 17 points below its average. With starting quarterback Brady Troup sidelined by a concussion after the first series of the second half, backup John Holladay, Jr., directed the Etowah offense to a pair of third quarter touchdowns that effectively put the game out of reach.
The Blue Devils (8-1, 5-0) out-gained Alexandria 355 to 202 in total yards.
Etowah (8-1, 5-0) host the No.4 seed out of Region 8 in the first round of the state playoffs on Nov. 9.
Etowah head coach John Holladay pointed to his team’s resiliency as an important factor in the win.
“Our kids settled down after [Alexandria’s] first two drives and understood what we were talking about in playing assignment football on defense. We were able to make things happen, so it was a good night for us.”
Trent Davis and NyNy Davis both had productive nights. Trent rushed for 131 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries, with 117 of those yards coming in the first half. NyNy caught three passes for 56 yards and rushed for a touchdown.
Before leaving the game, Troup completed 5 of 8 passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns. Ollie Finch had three receptions for 97 yards and a TD.
“Since Day 1, it’s always been our goal to host the first round and win the region championship,” said Trent Davis. “We came out here and played our hearts out. We left it all out on the field and came out victorious.”
“It feels great being part of a team that works hard and was focused this week and came back ready to play after a big loss [to Pell City] last week,” said NyNy Davis. “This year’s team always feels like we play for each other. Everyone is disciplined and unselfish does their job.”
The Valley Cubs (6-1, 4-1) drew first blood following a scoreless first quarter. A 16-play drive that covered 80 yards ended on Wesley Wright’s 1-yard touchdown run at 9:50 of the second period.
Wright’s 47-yard punt a few minutes later pinned the Blue Devils on their own 3-yard line, but a 20-yard run by Trent Davis provided the hosts some breathing room. Troup soon hit Finch on a seam pass at the Alexandria 30, and the junior receiver broke a tackle attempt and made it into the end zone. The PAT failed but the visitors led 7-6 at 7:20.
The Etowah defense quickly forced a three-and-out, and J.J. Williams blocked the ensuing punt. The Blue Devils recovered the ball and a penalty on Alexandria put the ball on the Valley Cub 18. Troup threw a TD pass to William Cox on the next play for a 12-7 Etowah advantage with 5:02 left in the first half.
Another Alexandria three-and-out set up the Blue Devils at the Etowah 38, where Trent Davis took it to the house 62 yards for the score. His successful two-point conversion run gave the hosts a 20-7 lead heading into halftime.
NyNy Davis polished off the Blue Devils’ first series of the second half with a 33-yard touchdown run. Eric Edge’s extra point put Alexandria in a 20-point hole at the 6:07 mark of the third quarter.
Trent Davis’ interception a few minutes later led to Etowah’s final score. Holladay’s 36-yard pass to NyNy Davis set up Trent Davis’ 11-yard touchdown with 1:27 remaining in the third.
The Valley Cubs finally answered the Blue Devil scoring barrage with Grayson Forrest’s 28-yard field goal for with 1:08 left in the game.
For Alexandria, eighth grade quarterback Ronnie Royal rushed for 115 rushing yards on 19 carries.
Alexandria head coach Todd Ginn felt his team lost its composure after Etowah scored two touchdowns in a three-minute span midway through the second quarter.
“We never really could get much going offensively after that. [Etowah] had not changed their defense all year and they changed it tonight, which tells you that we’re a pretty good team. But [Etowah] deserved to win this thing, and we’ll get better.”
Etowah concludes region play this Friday (Oct. 25) at Boaz.