Etowah faces Glencoe in Times' Game of Week
Thu. October 31, 2013 at 9:48 p.m. | By J.J. Hicks Staff Writer
Devin Horton is part of an Etowah backfield considered one of the speediest in the area. (Photo by Dave Hyatt | Gadsden Times | File)
Think Friday night’s Glencoe at Etowah matchup, which is The Gadsden Times’ Game of the Week, has little meaning?
Don’t tell that to Blue Devil coach Drew Noles.
“I don’t think either team is going to hold anything back,” he said. “I look at it as a very important game.”
Glencoe and coach Lee Ozmint likely will take the same approach.
True, the teams have secured a playoff spot and technically have nothing to gain from the game other than another one in the ‘win’ column. But as former New York Jets coach Herm Edwards once famously said, “You play to win the game.”
Therefore, this one is significant for both teams.
“We’re playing a playoff team,” Noles said. “It’s a game where both communities are so close to each other. It’s not a thing where you want to hold somebody out for fear of something happening.
“For us, it’s an opportunity to win an eighth game, which is a good season. Same thing for them, they’ve got a winning streak and they want to continue it. For the seniors, it’s their last regular season game they will ever play.”
A victory would be a nice boost going into the postseason, where both Glencoe (6-3, 4-3 in Class 3A, Region 5) and Etowah (7-2, 5-2 in 5A, Region 7) will go on the road in the opening round. The Yellow Jackets will visit Hanceville while the Blue Devils will travel to Pleasant Grove.
A bit of county bragging rights also will be on the line.
In last week’s 31-3 win over Boaz, Noles felt his team was sloppy and lacked energy coming off Week 8’s 21-17 loss to Southside.
Now, the coach believes his team is back on track.
“I think we’ve definitely had a better week of practice,” Noles said. “You know who you’ll be playing in the playoffs, and it’s good to know that sort of thing. I think we’ll have a better performance than last week.”
Glencoe has won three games in a row, a key stretch that helped it rebound from a 1-3 start in region play to gain the playoffs.
The Yellow Jackets also have won five of six and are averaging 34.3 points per game during that time.
The emergence of dual-threat talent Dylan Stone at quarterback has been big, along with the continued strong play of running back Thomas Ozmint.
“I think coach (Lee) Ozmint and his staff do a great job,” Noles said. “They have two guys with over 1,000 yards rushing (Stone has 1,097 yards and 11 touchdowns, Thomas Ozmint has 1,075 yards and 10 scores). They’re tough. The quarterback has gotten better all year long. We feel like their offensive line is one of the best we’ve seen all year long. They’re big up front.”
Pace Ozmint and Hunter Nunnally are two more athletes whol likely will get the chance to make plays against Etowah.
The Blue Devils also must contend with Glencoe linebacker Mason Brown. The senior is one of the top tacklers in The Times’ coverage area.
“Defensively, they absolutely get after it,” Noles said. “They fly around and give you all kinds of different looks. Our guys are going to have to do a good job of recognizing things pre-snap.”
Etowah is known for its talent on offense, which includes quarterback Kordell Rudolph, wideouts Lamar Thomas and Jordan Powell and one of the area’s deepest and most talented backfields that counts Devin Horton, Paul Ruiz, Stacy Williams and Marquavious Britton among its members.
However, it could be argued that the Blue Devils’ defense has been its backbone this year.
Over the first nine games of the year, Etowah is allowing an average of 12.3 points per game. The Blue Devils have yielded more than 11 points to the opposition in just three games this season.
Still, with the defense missing defensive backs Rodney Gibbs and Dylan Whitney, players such as lineman Coby Bryant and linebackers G.Q. Hardwick and Glen Williams likely will have to step up their play even more to slow the Yellow Jackets’ offensive talent.
“They’re a good football team,” Noles said. “Early in the season, their schedule was brutal. They’ve got a very, very good region. A lot of teams play a Week 10 game that doesn’t mean anything. Playing a team so close gives the kids a little something more to play for.”