By Lew Gilliland/Fort Payne Times-Journal
The Fort Payne “D” was back it again last Friday (Sept. 21), holding a strong Southside ground game to 54 yards in the first half as the No. 8-ranked Wildcats built 24-0 lead en route to a 45-20 victory in Class 5A, Region 7 high school football at FPHS.
The previously unbeaten Panthers (3-1, 2-1) finished with 233 yards rushing, but most of that came in the second half after the issue had been decided.
Fort Payne (4-0, 3-0) is allowing 17.3 points per game, but many of those have come in garbage time.
“I’m so impressed with our kids; [they’re] very resilient,” said Ellis, who praised his defense for shutting down the Panthers in the first half. “I thought on offense we were better tonight, thought we were clicking on all cylinders.”
Fort Payne took the opening kickoff and marched 68 yards on 16 plays, with quarterback Dale Jackson III hooking up with Matt Chisenhall for 11 yards and a touchdown with 6:27 left in the opening quarter.
Southside went three-and-out, and Fort Payne followed up back-to-back nine -yard runs by Jennings with a 44-yard scoring strike from Jackson to Zach Magnusson.
Blake Smith intercepted a Southside pass, but Fort Payne couldn’t move the ball and punted.
The Cats forced a Southside punt, and Jackson and Magnusson connected again four plays later – this time for 50 yards and a 21-0 lead with 5:16 left in the first half.
Logan McPherson added a 42-yard field goal with 27.4 seconds remaining before intermission.
Fort Payne added third-quarter touchdowns on a 14-yard run by Devonta McKenzie and a 28-yard run by Jackson.
Southside scored its first TD on a 10-yard pass from Patrick Lister to Blake Devine with 1.8 seconds left in the quarter. The extra-point attempt failed.
Jackson scored Fort Payne’s final TD of the night when he recovered a teammate’s fumble in the end zone.
Southside collected fourth-quarter touchdowns on runs of eight and three yards by Dantley Coker.
Devine led the Panthers in rushing with 171 yards on eight carries
Lister completed 6-of-14 passes for 62 yards. Devine and Justin Denson each had two catches.
Southside plays host to Springville on Friday in non-region action.