Falkville falls to Cleveland, 27-6
Dan Vinson, Enquirer Correspondent
Friday night in Falkville was supposed to be Home Sweet Home for the Blue Devils. Unfortunately, home was anything but sweet as Falkville coach Neil Estes endured a loss to the Cleveland Panthers 27-6, in his first home game as head coach.
The Cleveland Panthers' first play from scrimmage would establish a pattern that would be seen often throughout the game. Panther junior running back Corey Northcutt had a 7-yard gain running behind a powerful offensive line. Four plays later, Northcutt blazed down the left sideline for 55 yards to the Blue Devil 1-yard line.
Quarterback Brandon Robertson then took the ball in for a touchdown and with a successful fake extra point made the score 8-0 in favor of the Panthers.
Falkville had little problem moving the ball on its first possession of the night as senior running back Blake Jump methodically powered the ball down the field. Jump gained 27 yards on five carries and senior quarterback Kevin Russell had a crucial 11-yard scramble on third down and nine yards to go, keeping the initial drive alive.
Yet only two plays later, after a jarring sack, the ball was knocked free as Falkville turned the ball over for the first of many times in the game. "We're making mental mistakes at really bad times. We're laying the ball on the ground at really bad times," Coach Estes said. "We moved the ball up and down the field in the first half and had no points to show for it."
For the Cleveland offense, the night belonged to Northcutt who ran around the Blue Devil defense. Northcutt dazzled the Panther fans with prolific running including a 42-yard touchdown run.
"Corey had a great game running the ball tonight," Panther coach Anthony Reid said. Reid then gave another reason for his running back's success. "I felt like our offensive line dominated tonight," he said.
Falkville had a golden opportunity to put some pressure on the Panthers before the end of the first half. Russell fired a great pass to senior receiver Cory Shadden, taking the ball to the opponent's 45-yard line. Russell then showed the Blue Devil faithful his elusiveness as he scrambled on the next three plays all the way down to the Panther 9-yard line. But on first and goal, as he dropped back to pass, Russell was sacked and the ball popped free for the second turnover of the night.
The Blue Devils' chances were dealt a further blow as Blake Jump injured his left ankle in the first half and was unable to get back in the game. Caleb Ashley then came in as the chief rushing threat and ran the ball with success.
On the Devils' second possession of the second half, Ashley had runs of 15 yards and five yards only to see the offense fumble away the ball again. Falkville ended the night with three lost fumbles and one interception.
The only Blue Devil score came late in the fourth quarter and was set up by a blocked punt. Freshman Jonathan McNatt moved to the quarterback position and fired a 17-yard touchdown pass to Shadden.
Next week the Blue Devils try to regroup as they travel to Cold Springs.