Late defensive stand pulls Guntersville past Etowah

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By Shannon J. Allen/Sand
Mountain Reporter

  It’s appropriate an
old-fashioned defensive struggle was decided by the biggest stop of the night.

Guntersville’s Jackson Menefee, Sylvester Ramos
and River Johnson led a wave of tacklers who stuffed Etowah’s Paul Ruiz short
of the goal line on a two-point conversion run with 50.3 seconds left in the
fourth quarter on Friday in Attalla.

The Wildcats’ clutch play preserved a 7-6 win
and gave them sole possession of first place in Class 5A, Region 7.

Guntersville improved to 6-0 overall and 4-0 in the Region 7 standings, while Etowah dropped to 3-2, 3-1.

It was the first meeting between the teams since 1987. They became region opponents when Guntersville reclassified to 5A this season.

Guntersville’s defense stopped Stacy Williams for no gain on fourth-and-one from the GHS 5-yard line with 5:39 left in the game.

The Wildcats were forced to punt from their 13, and Etowah’s offense took over at the GHS 43.

Ruiz capped an eight-play drive with a 3-yard touchdown burst, cutting Guntersville’s lead to 7-6.

GHS head coach Lance Reese called a timeout after he saw the Blue Devils had decided to go for the two-point conversion.

Ruiz then swept around left end but was denied the end zone.

“I commend (Etowah) Coach (Drew) Noles,” Reese said. “He has momentum at the end, and I thought he made the correct call. We didn’t do anything fancy. We just called pretty much what we had been calling all night, and the kids made the play. Credit goes to the kids for making plays.”

Guntersville’s Nicky Erwin intercepted a pass on the opening series of the game, but the Wildcats failed to convert.

Etowah took a punt at its 11-yard line and drove to Guntersville’s 21 before turning it over on downs.

The Wildcats’ Jordan Bentley raced 54 yards for a touchdown with 10:50 remaining in the second period, but the scoring play was erased by a holding penalty.

Guntersville gained just 64 total yards in the opening half.

Ruiz dashed 42 yards to the Guntersville 13 late in the second period.

Johnson sacked Etowah quarterback Andy Noles for a 13-yard loss on third-and-nine from the 12.

Etowah lined up to attempt a 42-yard field goal, but a 5-yard illegal procedure penalty forced them to put the offense back on the field. Ruiz then gained 15 yards on the final play of the first half.

The Wildcats experienced miserable field position on their first two series of the second half. They started at their 16 and their 12, but Etowah wasn’t able to capitalize following GHS punts.

Guntersville launched its only scoring drive late in the third period. The Cats marched 64 yards in 10 plays.

Sophomore quarterback Major Henderson had completions of eight yards to Lee Menefee and 13 yards to Ethan Whitaker to convert third-and-long situations.

Henderson faked a handoff to Bentley and danced around left end on a 7-yard touchdown run with 10:12left in the fourth period. Wolls Jocelyn nailed the extra point, making it 7-0.

Etowah’s defense limited Bentley to 52 yards rushing.

Ruiz rushed for 174 yards, with 124 of them coming in the first half.

Etowah visits Butler next week for more region action. 

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