Southside rallies to beat Etowah 27-26 in Times' Game of the Week


Southside’s Holt Keeling tries to evade the tackle of Etowah’s Glen Williams during Friday’s Class 5A, Region 7 game in Attalla. (Photo by Dave Hyatt | Gadsden Times)


 

ATTALLA — Southside kept itself in the hunt for a playoff spot in Class 5A, Region 7 with a dramatic 27-26 comeback victory over Etowah in The Gadsden Times’ Game of the Week.

Southside coach Marty Smith could hardly contain his excitement after the win. 

“Both teams played their hearts out,” he said. “The coaches coached their rear ends off. Both teams believed in their coaching staffs. It makes for a heck of a ballgame on Friday night.

“We needed a win like this. This is momentum we can continue and use. The kids believe now. They used passion to fuel them tonight through all adversity.”

The Panthers (5-3, 3-3) trailed 26-20 for most of the second half. With 2:33 left in the game, Southside took over on its 20. Smith reached into his bag of tricks and pulled out a good one. Blake Devine took the ball on a handoff, ran to the right and launched a pass to a wide-open Justin Denson, who ran it to the Etowah 15. Four plays later, on fourth-and-4 from the 9, Holt Keeling broke several tackles and powered into the end zone with :16 left to tie it at 26.

 

The Southside crowd held its breath on the kick, as not a single extra point had been made all night. However, Carter West calmly made the kick to give the Panthers the hard-fought victory.

“It was supposed to be a throw back to Patrick (Lister, the quarterback),” Smith said. “It was just a player making a play.”

The loss was the first in six games for Etowah (6-2, 4-2).

“I am awful proud of our team, they played hard and fought hard,” Etowah coach Sam McCorkle said. “I give all the credit to Southside. They made plays when they had to have them. I take responsibility for us not winning.”

The Panthers trailed 20-14 coming out of halftime, but that didn’t last long. A nine play, 64-yard drive was capped on a 5-yard touchdown scamper by Lister. Chance Usry was stopped short on the two-point conversion run to leave the game tied at 20.

Etowah quickly responded. Two plays into the ensuing drive, Dylan Tucker rumbled for a 55-yard touchdown run to give the lead right back to the Blue Devils. Tyler Bishop threw an incomplete pass on the 2-point try, leaving it 26-20 with 7:23 left in the third quarter.

Southside controlled the ball for much of the remainder of the game, but could not get on the board until its final drive.

The first half was similar to an old Wild West shootout on a football field. Both teams piled up the yards and moved up and down the field. The Panthers had 196 yards at the break while the Blue Devils had 167 yards.

Dominick Pinson returned the opening kickoff to the Southside 32 for Etowah. The first play from scrimmage was a 29-yard pass from Bishop to Devin Horton. Two plays later, Horton plunged into the end zone from 3 yards out. Horton then threw a halfback pass to Chris Steele to make it 8-0 with 10:47 left in the opening period.

The Blue Devils had a chance to extend the lead on their next drive, but a fake field goal shovel pass from the 7-yard line from Bishop to Pinson lost 5 yards.

An interception of Bishop by Hunter Nobles put Southside in good field position at the Etowah 45 late in the first quarter. Five plays later, on fourth and 16, Lister hit Keeling to get the Panthers on the board. A trick play on the conversion ended when Brady Stephens scored on a run to tie it at 8 with 11:50 left until halftime.

Etowah responded with a nine-play, 60-yard drive. Bishop passed 15 yards to Pinson to cap the drive with 7:28 left in the second quarter. The 2-point try failed.

The Panthers struck right back with big plays. Coker ran twice for 39 yards, then Lister connected with Devine on a 33-yard scoring toss with 6:09 left until halftime. Cedric Childs blocked the extra point to leave it tied at 14.

An interception of Lister by Jay Duckett later in the period was returned 44 yards, to the Panthers’ 26. On the next play, Bishop found Xavier Caldwell on a 26-yard touchdown pass. The extra point was no good, leaving the score 20-14 with 3:48 left until the break.

The Panthers managed to drive to the Etowah 1 with :54 left in the opening half, but the Blue Devil defense stood its ground and stopped Coker for a loss of 1 yard on fourth-and-goal to end the threat.

Despite the win, Smith knows his team’s work is not done.

“We have to take care of Brewer (next week) or we have no chance at the playoffs,” he said.

For the game, Southside gained 360 yards, to 258 for Etowah.

Dantley Coker rushed 22 times for 114 yards to lead the Panthers. Lister completed 6 of 14 passes for 142 yards. Keeling had 52 yards rushing and 40 yards receiving. Devine totalled 118 all-purpose yards.

Bishop hit 6 of 12 passes for 77 yards for Etowah. Horton rushed for 26 yards, caught one pass for 29 yards and threw for 27 yards. Pinson led the Blue Devils with 49 yards rushing. Duckett had two interceptions.

In the final week of region play, Southside hosts the Patriots while Etowah travels to Boaz.