Wildcats face pass-savvy Panthers in region duel

Fort Payne's Kaden Dubose takes a handoff around the right side for a touchdown during the first half against rival Scottsboro at Fort Payne High School's Wildcat Stadium last Friday night. 

Fort Payne looks to add to its three-game winning streak while halting Southside-Gadsden’s two-game climb this week.

The Wildcats travel to Gadsden to take on the Panthers at Barney Hood Stadium at 7 p.m. Friday.

With a 13-6 victory against Springville, Southside extended its win streak to two in a row while improving its record to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in 6A, Region 7 play under first-year head coach Miles Holcomb.

“Coach Holcomb worked at Hoover for a couple of years and you can definitely see their influence,” Wildcats head coach Chris Elmore said. “Southside is very well-coached on offense and has very complex and innovative offensive schemes. Miles has done a great job of implementing his system in a very short period of time at Southside.”

Elmore said the Panthers will look to utilize the entire field to allow its passing game to be successful. From short passes to intermediate and long passes, Elmore said Southside does a good job of making opposing defenses guard the entire field.

Brooks Nesmith, a sophomore, directs Southside’s offense. Elmore said he can make all of the throws Holcomb wants him to make and does well against pressure, scrambling and extending plays when original ones break down.

Providing the Panthers with a game-changing weapon at wide receiver, junior Cody Roberts will force Fort Payne’s defense to account for him on the secondary level.

In the backfield, Tyler Green has done a good job of running the ball for the Panthers all season, Elmore said, noting several nice runs against Arab earlier in the year, a task which is difficult to accomplish against that particular defense.

Ethan Light and Spencer Sharp are a pair of standout defenders bolstering Southside’s front seven. The duo has helped the defense stay strong, as the Panthers have surrendered just 75 total points all season.

“We will have to play really well on offense to move the ball and score points,” Elmore said.

Fort Payne is 17-11 all-time against Southside, according to the Alabama High School Football Historical Society’s website. Fort Payne has won the previous two games in the series, including a 28-27 win last season.

The Wildcats travel following a 28-0 win against longtime rival Scottsboro last Friday night, retaining the TopCat Trophy for a third consecutive season.

Fort Payne’s offense flourished for a second straight week, as Jake Barnes completed 14 of 18 passes for 175 yards and three touchdowns. Marcus Ledford led all receivers with six receptions for 65 yards and two scores, and Sawyer Burt added 42 yards on three catches with a touchdown.

In a return to game action in the backfield, Kaden Dubose gained 30 yards on six rushes with a first-quarter touchdown for the Wildcats. 

Defensively, Kobe King recorded 13 tackles, Bennett Blanks had 10 tackles and Devin Wells had nine stops and a forced fumble.

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