By DARRIN SMITH
On Friday, despite nasty weather all around the area, the Indians hosted Fort Payne for their spring game. Although the Indians had several long drives, and a few sparks on offense and defense, the Tribe was no match for the Wildcats run and gun offense. The Wildcats prevailed 14-0 through the first half first team vs. first team portion and the score remained unchanged after a second team third quarter and freshman team fourth.
Fort Payne took first possession in the game and the Indian run defense slammed the door early. Putting the Wildcats in a third and 14, it appeared the Indians defense had the upper hand. On third down however, the Cats took to the air for a 44-yard completion to convert third down and take the ball into Chattooga territory. Again, the run defense stepped up and forced the Wildcats to punt. The offense started hot when EJ Lackey took the ball for 10 yards and a Chattooga first down. On the second play from scrimmage, the Indians lined up in a wildcat formation and Devin Price found daylight around the right side for a 20-yard touchdown. The only problem was the Indians were called for an illegal shift to negate the long score. Two plays later, the Indians were forced to punt.
Following the disappointing drive for the Indians, the Wildcats took to the air and marched down the field on an 11-play drive that resulted in a touchdown. Fifty-seven of the 60-yard drive came through the air. On the ensuing possession, the Indians ran three plays before the quarter came to a close. To start the second, the Wildcats shut down the Indians to force another punt.
The Indian run defense again stood tall but the pass defense struggled and gave up a 24-yard reception on fourth and one to convert. They finished off the drive with a 17-yard touchdown reception to go up two scores, 14-0. That score held for the remainder of the half as the half came to an end with both teams stalling on their final possession.
After the momentary half, the format changed as the second teamers hit the field. Each team was given 10 plays on offense to drive the ball. The Indians discovered a new rising star in eighth grader Shaun Lester who made his presence known right away. The 200-plus pound running back proved to be hard to bring down as he racked up yards. His first carry went four grueling yards with four Wildcats hanging off his back. His second third and fourth carries went for 15, 16, and 16 yards each as he punished linebackers and defensive backs each play. Carrying the load all the way down the field, Lester was finally brought down at the one-foot line on the tenth play of the drive just shy of a Chattooga touchdown.
The second team defense stepped up and stopped the Wildcats at midfield on their second team 10-play drive to send the contest to the fourth and the upcoming freshman teams. As the Tribes’ freshman team took first possession, the ball again found its way into the hands of Lester who continued to punish the defense. He carried the ball four times during the game with one breakaway run for 50 yards before finally being brought down inside the Wildcat twenty. Lester was not alone in the backfield on the final drive as Devon Heroch made his debut in similar powerful fashion. Although he only had three carries for five yards, they were five very impressive yards taking multiple defenders to bring him down each time. At the end of the freshman 10 plays, the Indians had driven inside the 20.
The freshmen defense showed no mercy and did not allow the Wildcats a single rushing yard in eight running plays. The defense did give up one completion for 10 yards but held the Wildcat drive to -2 yards total.
In his varsity debut, freshman QB Cash Allen went two for seven for eight yards through the air. Shaun Lester attempted two halfback passes that went for incompletions. Lester led the team in rushing with 133 yards on 12 carries. EJ Lackey had 25 yards on four carries as the second leading rusher. Nine Indians attempted rushes and gained 178 yards on 25 carries.
The Indian defense held the Wildcats to 79 yards on 33 carries. The defense did not fare as well against the pass as the Wildcat QB’s combined for 172 yards and two touchdowns on 14 attempts.
The Tribe managed six first downs to Ft. Payne’s 10 and both teams racked up 45 yards in penalties.
“I saw some things we did right and things we did wrong tonight,” Coach Charles Hammon told the team after the game. He told The News, “We will look at the film and break it down and see where we are starting from. We have a lot of things to clean up no doubt. I was very happy with some things I saw from our veteran players and am very impressed with our young running backs. It’s hard to bring down a couple of 200-plus young guys who run like that. I thought our guys fought hard for everything tonight, we have just got to clean it up. Just a couple of plays going our way and this was a tie game. I will take that against a team that’s as good as I think that team is right now.”
By DARRIN SMITH