Photo: Etowah High’s Brady Troup (left) hands off to Ethan Foster during the Blue Devils’ 26-20 victory over Fort Payne last Friday (Sept. 27) in Attalla. (Travis Greene)
By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
Class 5A No. 4 Etowah battled through weather, injuries and a late Fort Payne rally to remain unbeaten on the year with a 26-20 victory last Friday (Sept. 27) at Jim Glover Field in Attalla.
The opening kickoff was delayed over 30 minutes, followed by a second delay shortly after Fort Payne’s Alex McPherson knocked through a 34-yard field goal on the Wildcats’ opening possession.
When the Blue Devils retook the field and punted the ball to the Wildcats (4-1), the Etowah defense set the tone for remainder of the game. Ollie Finch intercepted Fort Payne quarterback John David Blalock and returned the ball 22 yards for a touchdown. The extra point was blocked but Etowah took a 6-3 advantage. However, the game was delayed again until nearly 10 p.m.
The damp field did not hinder the Blue Devils’ athleticism when the teams took the field again, as NyNy Davis scored from nine yards out extend the Etowah lead to 13-3 with 1:16 remaining in the first quarter.
Early in the second, Etowah’s Tyler Dobbs intercepted Blalock to set up the Blue Devils in Fort Payne territory. Less than a minute later, Trent Davis burst through the line of scrimmage for a 33-yard touchdown to push the lead to 19-3 with 10:15 left in the first half. Neither team scored for the remainder of the half after Etowah tackled Blalock inside the 10 as time expired in the second quarter.
The Wildcats battled back in the second half and trimmed the lead to eight after Hunter Love rushed for a 4-yard touchdown with 4:40 remaining in the third quarter. Love converted the 2-point conversion to cut the lead to 19-11.
Etowah (6-0, 3-0) was pinned deep in its own territory to start the fourth quarter when Brady Troup threw a pass behind NyNy Davis, who dropped the ball on the 3-yard line. Fort Payne’s Robbie Graham recovered the ball in the end zone to cut the lead to 19-17, but the Blue Devil defense made a stand on the 2-point conversion try to maintain the lead.
Fort Payne had an opportunity to take the lead after forcing a turnover on downs at its own 45-yard line but could not move into field goal range. On the ensuing Etowah possession, NyNy Davis made amends for the dropped pass when he broke free on an end-around for a 26-yard touchdown to give the Blue Devils a 26-17 advantage.
The Wildcats threatened late after McPherson hit a 42-yard field goal with 40 seconds left in the game to close the gap to 26-20. Fort Payne recovered an onsides kick, but Trent Davis sealed the game with an interception as time expired.
Etowah coach John Holladay said it was one of the craziest games he’s been a part of during his career.
“You start out with adrenaline. Then you have to stop. We tried to get [the players] fired back up, and then you have to stop. It’s tough. But I’m really proud of the way our kids handled it. Fort Payne played a heck of a game. They weren’t going to quit, and we knew that. I’m really proud of our kids.”
Trent Davis led the way for the Blue Devils despite battling a high ankle sprain from last week’s win over Southside. The junior rushed 24 times for 155 yards and a score in addition to the game-sealing interception.
“It was a gritty game by Trent (Davis),” said Holladay. “He wasn’t 100 percent but he’s so tough. He makes us go.”
Brady Troup completed 7-of-11 passes for 62 yards, while NyNy Davis rushed for 67 yards and two touchdowns on five carries. He also caught three passes for 41 yards. Love rushed 27 times for 154 yards and a score for the Wildcats.
Holladay said he learned a lot about his team’s toughness against the Wildcats.
“We talk about it every day; it doesn’t matter where we are. We talk about being tough. A lot of times it’s more mental than physical, and tonight it was mental and physical.”
The Blue Devils travel to Pell City for another non-region contest this Friday (Oct. 4) as they look to continue their 24-game regular season winning streak.