Photo: The Etowah High boys bowling team gathers for a photo after winning the Class 1A/5A North Regional bowling tournament on January 21 at the Shindig Family Entertainment Center in Tuscaloosa. Pictured, from left: Hunter Wilder, Tyler Dobbs, Kaed Bradley, Lucas Bradley, Benjamin Betiel, Garrett Gibbs, Jaxson Bush, Christopher “Bear” Stevens. (submitted photo)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
There will be some local flavor this week at the AHSAA state bowling tournament in Gadsden.
The Etowah High boys bowling team posted a 4-2 victory over American Christian in the finals of the Class 1A/5A North Region bowling tournament at the Shindig Family Entertainment Center on January 21 in Tuscaloosa.
The Blue Devils totaled 1,041 pins to the Patriots’ 982 in the best-of-seven Baker format match, earning what is believed to be the program’s first regional title.
Etowah bowling coach Shawanna Roper was proud of the team for focusing on the tournament after learning of the death of a fellow EHS student earlier in the week.
“That took a toll on them, and for them to be able to reach past mentally and do well, I’m really proud of these kids,” she said.
Etowah began Friday’s elimination play with an 811 to 734 win over Sipsey Valley before defeating East Limestone, 1,022 to 982 in the semifinals.
“One thing about my boys is that they’re fighters,” said Roper. “We have a couple of football players on the team, and we sort of have that football mentality of not giving up and pushing through adversity. I tell them that the score is 0 to 0 every time out with an even playing field, and we go from there.”
Roper said the defining moment came in the 10th frame in one of the six games against ACA. With the score tied at 161, Lucas Bradley, the Blue Devils’ No. 5 bowler, had to hit one pin for the victory. He wound up hitting five.
“We all held our breath, and when the ball took down the pin, we absolutely lost it,” said Roper. “It was amazing. That’s how it was with every game; every one of them was pretty close.”
Roper appreciated that the St. Clair County High School team, which exited the tournament in the quarterfinals, stayed around to support Etowah.
“That was a game changer for us, having them there to motivate us,” she said. “It was a very classy thing to do.”
The Blue Devils finished third behind American Christian and East Limestone in the January 20 three-game tradition round for seeding. After coming in fifth in the first round, Etowah finished first on both the second and third games. Bradley finished runner-up in the second game, while Tyler Dobbs came in fourth.
Dobbs finished eighth in the final traditional game standings, followed by Bear Stevens (11th), Bradley (14th), Hunter Wilder (16th), Jaxon Bush (30th) and Kaed Bradley (40th).
“I always tell my boys that if you’re off on a certain day, it’s your job to support everybody else,” said Roper. “You need one of them to step up and take your place. These guys are so supportive of one another.”
The Etowah girls made it to the semifinals, beating Sipsey Valley, 760 to 706 before falling to eventual regional champion Corner, 373 to 510.
The Lady Blue Devils were seeded fourth behind Corner, East Limestone and American Christian following the January 20 three-game tradition round. Etowah finished second in both Game 1 and Game 2 and fourth in Game 3.
Individually for the Lady Blue Devils, Elli Jones finished runner-up after placing third in the first game and second in the second game. Jones also finished second overall in traditional play, followed by Anna Jones (10th), Katie Tolton (14th), Shelby Horton (19th), Lanie Gibbs (35th) and Sadie Brannon (42nd).
“My girls are the underdogs this year, but they surprise you every time they’re out there.” said Roper. “These girls are very consistent, and their fight is amazing. The mentality for both teams was to make it home to Gadsden for the state tournament.”
In the Class 6A/7A girls regional, Southside made it to the semifinals, where the Lady Panthers came up short against Vestavia Hills, 957 to 1,029. Southside started off the elimination round with a 622 to 416 win over Paul W. Bryant.
The Lady Panthers earned the second seed behind eventual region champion Sparkman after finishing the January 20 qualifying round with an overall traditional round score of 2,242. In individual traditional game performances, Keira Phillips finished third in the first game, Cora Lee Contz finished third in the second game and Phillips, Keilsy Hull and Emily Norris finished second, third and fourth, respectively, in the third game. Phillips was the traditional round leader with an overall score of 529.
Phillips placed third overall in qualifying action, followed by Hull (6th), Clontz (10th) and Norris (30th).
“It was a little less than we were hoping for, but that semifinal match was about as close as you can get,” said Southside bowling coach Zack Blume. “We won Game 1, [Vestavia] won the next two, we won the next two after that and [Vestavia] won the last two. We went 1-3 against them this season, and every one of our losses was a nail biter.”
“We had won of our best matches of the year against Paul Bryant in the quarterfinals. The girls came out and took care of business like they were supposed to. They were loose and relaxed, which I think carried over from the third game in the qualifying round. They’re a young group, and they worked as hard as they could.”
All three area teams qualified for the state tournament this Thursday and Friday (Jan. 27-28) at The Alley in the Gadsden Mall. The Class1A/5A qualifying play starts at 8 a.m. on Thursday, while Class 6A/7A begins at approximately 1 p.m. Tickets are $12 each and can be purchased at www.gofan.com.