Defense is the difference as Devils knock off Pennington
Dan Vinson, Enquirer Correspondent
BLOUNTSVILLE – The Devil defense did it again.
The Falkville Blue Devils ended the regular season on a high note Friday night as they defeated the J. B. Pennington Tigers by a score of 9-6.
The Blue Devil defense came away with four interceptions to ruin homecoming for the Tigers. Falkville coupled a strong defensive effort with a potent passing attack to serve notice that they were heading into the playoffs with the ability and heart to compete.
When asked about his team's performance, Falkville coach Neil Estes said, "When you execute like they did, everything looks good. (Quarterback Jonathan) McNatt made very good decisions and made it easier for us to move the ball. When you are a freshman at the quarterback position you have to learn from your past mistakes, and he has done that."
The Blue Devil offense made very few mistakes to learn from on Friday night as McNatt was able to throw the ball to Jeremy Stiles and Cory Shadden in their first offensive series. Falkville was able to move the ball against the Tiger defense before finally having to punt it away.
The beginning of the second quarter saw the Blue Devil defense come up big for the first of many times during the game.
Pennington quarterback Eli Holcombe dropped back to pass on a third down situation and lofted the ball toward the end zone. Before a Tiger receiver could position himself to catch the pass Falkville defensive back Shadden batted the ball into the air and into the waiting arms of teammate Cody Simpson.
Falkville was able to move the ball down to the Pennington 10-yard line behind the gritty running of Blake Jump and McNatt while Simpson had 23 yards receiving on the drive. Jonathan Lindsey was called in to make a 27-yard field goal for the first points of the night.
Pennington's first offensive series of the second half did not turn out well for the Tigers.
Holcombe threw his second interception to Simpson, who was able to return the pick to the Tiger 38-yard line.
This time Falkville took full advantage of the turnover as Stiles took a Kevin Russell pass for 26 yards and into the end zone. The extra point was blocked by the Tigers keeping the score 9-0 in favor of the Blue Devils.
The lead quickly shrank back down on the next Tiger possession as Falkville made one of the few defensive mistakes of the night. Tiger running back Cody Hodge broke several tackles and ran for 51 yards and a touchdown, making the score 9-6.
The Tigers made a game of it as they were able to move the ball on their next possession. But as time was getting short and faced with fourth down, the Tigers tried a desperation fake punt. The result was an interception, this time by Jump.
On the last Tiger possession of the game, Falkville's Dustin Reeves put the final nail in the Tiger coffin with another interception. The Blue Devils were able to run out the clock and go into the playoffs with a victory.
Coach Estes has been able to guide Falkville to the playoffs in just his first year as head coach. He has turned around a Falkville program that was winless last year and made them playoff eligible this year.
Commenting on next week's first-round playoff opponent, Estes said, "We've got to batten down the hatches because Lexington is a powerhouse."