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Etowah welcomes Alexandria in season opener


Etowah Coach Sam McCorkle and the Blue Devils open the high school football season at home tonight. (Photo by Dave Hyatt | Gadsden Times | File)


By J.J. Hicks Sports Writer

The Etowah Blue Devils kick off the 2012 football season Thursday night by hosting the Alexandria Valley Cubs.

The Class 4A school doesn’t look to be a pushover despite being one classification lower than Etowah, as it went 8-4 overall, and 5-2 in 2011 in the difficult Region 6, which included a win over eventual 4A state runner-up Oneonta. In addition, Alexandria set team records by scoring 374 points on the season and 74 points in a game (against Locust Fork).

At the same time, the Blue Devils have reason to feel good about themselves as well, coming off a 10-2 season and a Class 5A, Region 7 championship.

However, there are a few things working against Etowah. For starters, it lost arguably its top two playmakers, quarterback Dalton Wadley and wide receiver Darrin Peterson, from last year’s squad. The good thing is, coach Sam McCorkle and his staff have had nearly a year to pinpoint how to soften the blow of those losses. A few more losses, though, have given McCorkle much less time to figure out a solution.

A source inside the school system confirmed that five players have been suspended and will not play in tonight’s game. McCorkle was mum on the topic. “That’s an in-house deal, and I don’t want to comment on that,” he said.

Adding to Etowah’s woes, McCorkle said the team is dealing with a number of injuries as well. He understands the Blue Devils have their hands full with the Valley Cubs.

“The guys we’ve got, they’ve been working hard,” McCorkle said. “There are some guys who are being thrown in there probably before they thought they would be. I think they’ll play hard, but it will be a new experience for them, being out there in a varsity game. The speed of the game picks up, it will be a lot faster than they are used to, but I have confidence in them. We’re going to pull together and make a positive thing out of this. We’ll have more depth, more guys who will have had playing time after this.”

McCorkle knows that getting a win over Alexandria will be a challenge.

“They are a really good team,” he said. “They’re very well coached. We’re going to get their very best game. Their quarterback does a great job of running their offense. They have really good running backs. They’re not as big some teams we play, but they are very aggressive and they run to the ball well.”

If the past is any indication, the Blue Devils will have a raucous opening-night crowd behind them, and the team has shown plenty of reserve and grit in the past under McCorkle. Seven of the team’s 12 games last season were decided by a touchdown or less, and Etowah won four of those. The team went 3-1 in games decided by six points or less in 2010 and 3-1 in games decided by seven points or less in 2009, McCorkle’s first season at the helm.