Etowah wins state bowling championship

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Photo: The Etowah boys bowling team gathers for a photo after winning the AHSAA Class 1A-5A state tournament on January 27 at The Alley at the Gadsden Mall. Pictured, kneeling, from left: Brayden McClain, Brandon Underwood, Garrett Gibbs, Jaxon Bush, Kaed Bradley. Standing, from left: head coach Shawanna Roper, Chris Beitel, Ben Beitel, E.J. Teal, assistant coach Kevin Hunt. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger) 

By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor

Twenty-four years after the 1999 Etowah football team won a state championship, the school’s trophy case is making room for a new addition.
The Etowah boys bowling team, which finished as state runner-up last season, won the AHSAA Class 1A-5A state bowling tournament on January 27 at The Alley at the Gadsden Mall. After going 8-4 in Baker format play in the quarterfinals and semifinals, the Blue Devils swept West Point, 4-0, in the best-of-seven championship game.
“We brought it home, and I’m so just excited for everyone,” said Etowah coach Shawanna Roper. “I told our boys to just stay humble and keep fighting and we’ll make it to the end. I also told them to treat each Baker [game] with the mindset that the score is 0-0. All of the blood, sweat, and tears for these guys paid off. I’m always telling these kids that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to, and they really earned this.”
Junior Kaed Bradley helped put the Blue Devils over the top in the finals against West Point, as Etowah won the final two frames by respective scores of 212 to 148 and 233 to 164. Bradley closed out with consecutive strikes in his final roll in the 10th frame. Bradley then told Roper, “Let’s let (freshman Chris Beitel bowl the last ball.” Beitel did so, and his strike closed out the match.
“Kaed got the boys in the huddle [before the finals] and talked to them and helped settle their nerves,” said Roper. “He then told me they were ready, and I said, Okay, let’s go!’” I’m really proud of them for staying humble and focused.”
Bradley said he and his teammates had unfinished business from last season’s finish.
“Last year really hurt,” said Bradley. “We came into this [tournament] with a chip on our shoulder and we got it done. We couldn’t have done it without all the support from our coaches and our families. We worked really hard to get to this point, and I’m kind of shell-shocked right now. I’m just happy to be a part of a team that made school history.”
Garrett Gibbs is one of the team’s two seniors along with Brandon Underwood.
“I’m just happy that everyone on the team came out today and bowled the way we needed to,” said Gibbs. “Everyone just pitched in and did his part, and that’s how we got here. It also felt really good to see so much of the [Attalla] community come out and support us and help us win a state championship. I just want to thank Coach Roper and Coach (Kevin) Hunt, who helped me out over the past few months to get me to where I am now.”
Roper pointed out that her team put in many hours of extra work during the regular season in anticipation of the regional and state tournaments.
“These boys stayed in this bowling alley five and six hours at a time just trying to correct stuff,” she said. “On Monday, we were here working on making the spares that we missed [at regionals], and it definitely paid off. God has always been in my heart and I’ve been praying the whole time, and I’m on a high right now that I can’t describe.”
Etowah finished third out of the eight-team field in the traditional three-game qualifying round on January 26. The Blue Devils accumulated 2,466 points. Bradley paced Etowah with a three- game score of 543, followed by Underwood with 540, Gibbs with 479, E.J. Teal with 333 and Jaxon Bush with 315. Bradley and Underwood medaled by finishing fourth and fifth, respectively, in the top eight in individual play out of 41 competitors.
Roper wished to thank Attalla City Schools, The Alley of Gadsden, the Gadsden City and Southside high school bowling coaches, Specialized Trainer Artesia Jones, the Gibbs family, The Alley League Bowlers, the communities of Attalla and Gadsden, alumni of Etowah High School and countless people around the world for supporting her team.
Roper dedicated the championship match to Raquel Gibbs, Etowah High School Class of 1995.
“Raquel is founder of Etowah bowling and she is our angel!”

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