November 29, 2014 12:06 AM
WOODSTOCK — Etowah made history Friday night when it beat Newton 43-29 in the Class AAAAAA state semifinal and became the first football team in Cherokee County history to advance to the semifinals.
The second-seeded Eagles (11-2) will travel to Region 8AAAAAA champion Archer (10-3) next week for a chance to play for the state championship at the Georgia Dome.
However, in the fourth quarter of Friday’s game, as Etowah found itself trailing 29-21, it looked as if Newton would be the one moving on.
But it was the Eagles who ultimately advanced, and Etowah coach Dave Svehla thought his players performed well.
“We went through a stretch in the third quarter where we struggled a little bit offensively, but our defense stepped it up,” he said.
A shootout in the first half gave Newton (7-4) a 22-21 advantage going into the third. That quarter ended up being a defensive stalemate, and when the Rams scored on a 2-yard quarterback sneak by Romario Johnson with 9:17 left, the Eagles found themselves down by eight.
Etowah, however, went right to work as carries by Tyray Devezin moved the ball inside the Rams 10. Then, on fourth-and-inches from the 8, Scott Morgan got the handoff and carried the ball 6 yards for the first down. On the next play the ball was again given to the Georgia Tech-bound lineman, who punched it in for his second score of the night.
Etowah lined up for a 2-point conversion to tie the game, in the same formation it had used on the last two plays, with Morgan again in the backfield. Instead of getting the ball, Morgan made a strong block, which allowed quarterback Robbie Knox to hit a wide-open Noah Dye in the back of the end zone to tie the game at 29-all.
Seconds after tying the game, Etowah forced the first of two fumbles it recovered in the final 5 minutes. Alan-Michael Harris came up with the ball, and when the offense returned to the field, Devezin needed just two 16-yard runs to put Etowah up 36-29.
Svehla said that possession made the difference in the game.
“Obviously, to score and get the 2-point conversion was big, but to get the ball back was key,” Svehla said. “The momentum, at that point, was a huge, huge thing for our defense.”
Newton, which feeds off its quarterback, was unable to make anything happen on its next set of downs. The Rams suffered losses on each of the first two downs and, after an incomplete pass, were faced with a fourth-and-17. They went for it, and another incompletion turned the ball over on downs at their own 44.
Once again, with Devezin doing most of the work, Etowah used the clock and picked up yards. Devezin finished the drive with a 22-yard touchdown run with 2:25 to play.
Newton started its next drive at its own 27 and promptly gave the ball back with a fumble on the first play. This time, Caleb Barden-Street recovered, and Devezin picked up a first down to allow the Eagles to end the game in victory formation.
Devezin finished the game with 24 carries for 232 yards and three touchdowns. Knox was just 2-for-10 passing with no completions in the second half, but he did run for 79 yards, including a 48-yard touchdown in the first half on a fourth-and-2 from near midfield.