Etowah (1-0) at Fort Payne (1-0)
Last week: Etowah 27, Alexandria 14; Fort Payne 27, North Jackson 10
Last meeting: 2011 – Etowah 21, Fort Payne 14
Series record: Etowah 15, Fort Payne 15
By Gene Stanley/Messenger Sports Correspondent
It may be only Week 2 of the high school football season, but the winner of tonight’s Etowah-Fort Payne game will have the inside track to the Class 5A, Region 7 championship, barring upsets later in the season, of course.
Since they were reunited as region-mates in 2006, the team that won this rivalry game went on to take the region title in all but one season.
The Wildcats have been that winning team every one of those years until 2011, when the Blue Devils won by a 21-14 margin.
“It’s awfully early in the season yet, but whoever wins this game certainly enhances their chance (to win the region),” Blue Devil coach Sam McCorkle said. “But there are a lot of teams in the region who have really improved this year.”
McCorkle mentioned Boaz, Scottsboro and Arab as teams that could compete for the crown.
Last week, both teams defeated respected 4A squads. Fort Payne beat No. 5-ranked North Jackson and Etowah took out Alexandria.
What made the Blue Devils’ win more impressive was the fact that there were five freshmen starting in place of suspended players.
“We’ll have those five back, plus a couple who were injured,” McCorkle said. “We need to improve in every category but last week, there were five guys playing who had never played on the varsity.
“But we got better as the game went on, so they were learning what they needed to do.
“We did what was needed to win.”
Etowah was held to only 170 total yards and only 67 on the ground, marks that McCorkle said were the lowest in one game since he took over the team prior to the 2009 season.
Fort Payne counters with a team loaded with seniors. Every offensive starter is a senior, and all but two of the defenders are in their final year.
“Those guys will be wanting revenge from last year,” McCorkle said. “That’s a team that is used to winning and they have the intensity and drive to win every game.”