Wildcats fall to Knights in region opener

Fort Payne’s Ricky Adame (3) catches a pass and runs for a touchdown as Arab’s Jackson Martin (5) defends Friday night.

Jake Barnes tossed a 35-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Adame, accounting for Fort Payne’s lone score in a penalty-laden 20-7 loss to the Arab Knights in a Class 6A, Region 7 opening game at Fort Payne High School’s Wildcat Stadium on Friday night.

Penalties plagued both teams throughout the night, as the Wildcats dropped to 0-3 overall and 0-1 in region competition. Arab improved to 1-0 in region play and 2-1 overall.

Leading 14-7 inside the 3-minute mark of the fourth quarter, the Knights converted a fourth-and-5 play when Ed Johnson hit Wesson Johnson for a 24-yard touchdown, putting the game out of reach for Fort Payne.

Arab snapped a 7-7 halftime draw when Drake Franklin capped a short drive with a 15-yard touchdown run with 3:19 to play in the third quarter.

Alex McPherson’s punt attempt was blocked by Arab’s special teams defense. Darrell Prater scooped the loose ball and returned it to Fort Payne’s 33-yard line, setting up the Knights’ offense with a short field from which to operate.

The Wildcats scored on their second series of the game when Barnes connected with Adame on the left side. Adame ran behind screens on the third-and-5 play and motored ahead for a 35-yard touchdown. McPherson tacked on an extra-point kick and gave the Wildcats a 7-0 advantage with 4:17 remaining in the opening period.

Arab answered on its next series after drawing Fort Payne offside in a fourth-and-3 situation at the Wildcats’ 18-yard line. The Knights overcame a holding penalty later in the drive when Ed Johnson hooked up with Spencer Strickland for a 24-yard scoring strike.

Strickland pulled down the ball in the shallow-left corner of the end zone, beating a Fort Payne double team for the scoring reception. An extra-point kick brought the contest to a tie with 10:53 left in the first half.

Alex Akins bulldozed up the middle on a third-and-12 play from Fort Payne’s 18 on the Wildcats’ next drive. He gained just 7 yards on the run, bringing up a fourth down. McPherson unloaded a 59-yard punt to end the drive.

The Knights advanced as close as Fort Payne’s 24 in their penultimate series of the half. Johnson threw the ball out of bounds in an attempt to connect with a receiver in the shallow-right corner of the end zone with 3 minutes left.

Fort Payne visits Springville next Friday night.

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