By Chris McCarthy/Editor
An impressive workhorse effort from Stacy Williams on Nov. 6 wasn’t quite enough to carry Etowah High to its first postseason victory in four years.
The senior running back’s 232-yard, three-touchdown effort on 31 carries went for naught as the Blue Devils lost to A.H. Parker, 27-21, in overtime in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs in Attalla.
Williams’ 1-yard game-tying touchdown run and Raul Hernandez’s PAT with 40 seconds left in the four quarter set up the extra session, where the Thundering Herd had the ball first at the 10-yard line. Two plays netted no yards, but on third down quarterback Javonte Hurst passed to Jonaise Johnson alone in end zone for the go-head score. The extra point failed but the visitors from Birmingham went ahead 27-21.
On the ensuing series, two runs from Williams and one carry by Paul Ruiz set up a fourth down from the 3. Quarterback Andy Noles rolled to his left and threw into the end zone, but Parker’s Justin Brown intercepted the pass to end the Blue Devils’ season at 7-4.
“[Parker] has a lot of speed offensively, and they’re the No. 2 defense in 5A for a purpose,” Etowah head coach Drew Noles. “I thought our guys played extremely hard, but we just didn’t get it done in the end, and [Brown] made a great play. Stacy ran the ball hard and Darius in front of him did a good job. It wasn’t what we didn’t do; it’s what they did. [Parker] took away the passing game with the pressure they put on us all night.”
Ruiz ran for 60 yards on eight carries, while Andy Noles was 5-for-8 in passing for 41 yards.
The Blue Devils’ opening possession covered 78 yards in seven played and ended with a 7-tard touchdown run by Williams. Hernandez added the PAT for a 7-0 lead at 8:16 of the first quarter.
Parker was forced to punt on its first series after Trey Cole sacked Jacob Millhouse for a six-yard loss on third down. Starting in good field position at the Herd 45, the hosts scored on the drive’s fourth play when Williams dashed 37 yards on a fourth down and 2. Hernandez’s extra point provided Etowah with a 14-point advantage with 4:46 remaining in the opening period.
Parker responded less than two minutes later with a 55-yard, five-play series that resulted in Hurst’s 23-yard touchdown run.
Miscues soon hurt the Blue Devil cause, however, as the Herd turned a pair of Etowah turnovers into two scores and a 21-14 halftime lead.
An interception by Brown set up a 27-yard scoring run from Hurst that tied the game at 14-14 at the 9:18 mark of the second quarter. Then, after a 33-yard run from Ruiz help set up the hosts with a first down deep inside Parker territory, the Blue Devils fumbled the ball away at the Herd 7.
Parker gradually drove to midfield, where a 45-yard pass completion from Millhouse to Chris Alexander led three plays later to Corey Dudley’s 1-yard TD up the middle with 21 seconds left in the first half.
“[Parker] scored three times on three possessions (in the first half),” said Drew Noles. “We were right there but we were a step behind, and that’s a tribute to their speed.”
The above score held up through the third quarter, as neither offense made it past midfield. Etowah’s first series of the fourth quarter ended on an interception by Johnson, but the ensuing Parker drive fizzled out on a failed fourth down conversion attempt at the Blue Devil 30.
With 4:10 left on the game clock, Etowah called Williams’ number on five of the series’ seven plays. A 38-yard ramble by Williams moved the hosts inside the Herd 20, and Williams eventually capped the possession with a 1-yard touchdown run with 40 seconds left. Hernandez added the all-important PAT to send the contest into overtime.
Hurst finished with 110 rushing yards on 13 carries, while Dudley ran 11 times for 102 yards.
Parker will host Russellville in the second round this week.
“I thought our guys showed great character tonight in battling back, and overall we did a good job with our composure” said Noles. “We’ll just learn from [the loss] and grow from it. This is a great group of guys. I know that they’re hurting right now, and I’m hurting. You lose a game like that, and it’s tough.”