Unbeaten Fort Payne Wildcats survived six turnovers to beat Albertville 20-13 in an emotional, intense and physical Class 6A, Region 8 football game Friday night on McCord Field at Aggie Stadium.
The Wildcats improved to 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the Region 8 standings. Fort Payne is the defending region champion. Albertville slipped to 1-1, 0-1.
Fort Payne erased a 13-6 deficit by outscoring Albertville 14-0 in the fourth quarter.
Consecutive high snaps over the quarterback’s head cost Fort Payne a loss of 34 yards late in the third quarter. The second snap rolled into the end zone, where Albertville’s Trinity Bell recovered it for a touchdown with 2:03 left, giving his team a 13-6 lead. AHS missed the extra point.
Fort Payne took the kickoff and drove 65 yards in 10 plays for its first touchdown.
Matthew Shaddix’s 22-yard pass to Sawyer Burt gave the Wildcats a first-and-goal at the AHS 6-yard line. Hunter Love barreled into the end zone from the 3 on second-and-goal with 11:09 left in the fourth quarter. Alex McPherson’s extra point made it 13-13.
The teams exchanged punts before Albertville was forced to punt again, this time from its 16. Carter Pinholster returned it inside the AHS 20, but a holding penalty pushed the Wildcats back to the 33.
Fort Payne rode the bruising running of Love for the go-ahead score. He had consecutive carries of 6, 9, 9, 5 and 2 yards, with the 2-yarder going for a touchdown with 5:13 remaining. McPherson’s extra point gave the Wildcats a 20-13 edge.
Unofficially, Love rushed 31 times for 113 yards.
Fort Payne’s Cameron Thomas intercepted a tipped pass on the second play following the kickoff, putting the Wildcats in business at Albertville’s 32 with 4:36 to go.
The Cats ran out the clock by picking up two first downs.
In the third quarter, Albertville’s Chi Jordan returned an interception to the FPHS 47 with 9:53 remaining, and teammate Joel Cain recovered a fumble at the Wildcats’ 21 at the 5:54 mark. The Aggies failed to turn either opportunity into points.
Albertville’s offense gained only one first down in the second half as Fort Payne’s defense controlled the line of scrimmage.
A penalty erased a Wildcat touchdown on the opening drive of the game. The series ended with McPherson missing a 42-yard field goal with 9:34 left in the first period.
On the Wildcats’ next series, Albertville’s Zion Davis caught a fumble in mid-air at the FPHS 12. Two plays later, Robbie Graham picked off a pass to smother the Aggies’ scoring threat.
The sequence of turnovers continued, as less than a minute later, Albertville’s Kameron Nesbit made a leaping interception at the FPHS 30.
Ben Allen’s 22-yard pass to Chase Kitchens picked up a first-and-goal at the 8. Brendan Merrell swept around right end for a 4-yard touchdown with 4:43 remaining in the first quarter. Jason Rodriguez’s extra point made it 7-0.
McPherson put the Wildcats on the scoreboard by nailing a 42-yard field goal at the 9:30 mark of the second period.
Fort Payne’s Samuel Hotalen and Thomas each grabbed a second-quarter interception. Jordan picked off a pass for the Aggies in the second period.
McPherson wowed the fans of both teams by booming a 57-yard field goal with a second left in the first half, cutting Albertville’s lead to 7-6.