Fort Payne and Scottsboro will meet for the 85th time Friday in Fort Payne in their annual battle for the TopCat Trophy.
The trophy has changed hands for four consecutive years, and the Fort Payne Wildcats are determined to keep that pattern going Friday night.
“I’ve been a part of two losses in this rivalry, one as a player and one as a coach, and it was a pretty miserable feeling both times,” Fort Payne head coach Chris Elmore said. “It’s always going to be a big game for both teams and we’re doing everything we can to prepare so we can get that win back.”
Fort Payne is coming off of a strong season opener, where the Wildcats toppled Pell City 28-13 thanks to a punishing running game and a shutdown effort on defense through out most of the final three quarters
Fort Payne had Hunter Love, Matthew Shaddix and Darwin Camp combine to pick up over 250 yards and three touchdowns on the ground last week. The Fort Payne defense gave two early scoring drives before shutting out Pell City after the 11:07 mark in the second quarter.
While Elmore was pleased with his team’s start last week, he said that they need to more explosive and finish stronger.
“We have to do better job of finishing in the second half,” Elmore said. “We threw the ball pretty efficiently, but we weren’t able to create any really explosive plays in the passing game. We had some short and some 7-10 yard plays, which was fine, but if we keep running the ball effectively, I think we’ll have some opportunities to throw the ball down the field. We’ve got to be able to convert on those, no matter who we’re playing.”
Starting quarterback J.D. Blalock had just one incompletion last week on 11 attempts and threw for 78 yards. Fort Payne’s longest passing play from Blalock to Shaddix covered 16 yards last week.
On the other sideline, Scottsboro will try to gash the Fort Payne defense with an option-based offense.
“They have a little more of an option attack this year,” Elmore said. “Their quarterback is a really good runner and our defense will have to be responsibly sound.”
That option look means Fort Payne will have to tackle well in the open field and keep Scottsboro’s ball carriers from slipping away for big gains.