The Fort Payne football team held on the TopCat Trophy Friday night — by inches.

Scottsboro rallied from 17-point halftime deficit to tie the game in the fourth quarter before coming up inches shy of forcing overtime or attempting a game-winning two-point conversion in a 41-34 Class 6A Region 7 setback Friday night at Trammell Stadium.

The game ended with Scottsboro being stopped inches short of the goal line on the game’s final play.

“There at the end, (Fort Payne was) going to run the clock down and kick a field goal. We couldn’t allow that. The only way for us to get the ball back was let them score. They scored and we had an opportunity. Didn’t capitalize, but nobody said life’s fair,” said Scottsboro head coach Don Jacobs. “The kids didn’t give up. Kids played hard. Gave us a chance at the very end.”

Fort Payne (4-2, 3-0) took a 3-0 lead on Alex McPherson’s 45-yard field with 10:24 left in the first quarter, but Scottsboro (2-4, 1-3) went in front 7-3 following Jacob Manning’s 2-yard touchdown run and the first of Alex Joose’s two PATs. Fort Payne regained the lead at 10-7 on J.D. Blalock’s 36-yard touchdown pass to Cam Thomas with 1:10 left in the first quarter.

After recovering an onside kick, Fort Payne went up 17-7 on Hunter Love’s 1-yard touchdown run. Love added another 1-yard score later in the second quarter for a 24-7 Fort Payne lead, but Scottsboro countered with Manning’s 72-yard touchdown pass to Malik Willis. Fort Payne however responded with Blalock’s 77-yard touchdown pass with 1:57 left in the first half for a 31-14 halftime lead.

Scottsboro came out in the third quarter and drove 80 yards on 10 plays, capping the drive with Branford’s 8-yard touchdown run, to pull within 31-20.

The scoring drive “set the tone” for the second half, Jacobs said, sparking Scottsboro’s rally.

“We talked at halftime about changing the momentum. It’s disheartening to go in at halftime down 31-14, but the kids came back out in the second half and did a great job, fought their way back,” Jacobs said. “We talked about getting taking it in for a score, and holding them, and getting it even closer. It worked out exactly like we talked about.”

After B.J. Harris’ interception ended Fort Payne’s next possession, Manning’s 4-yard touchdown run (the two-point conversion try failed) pulled Scottsboro within 31-26 with 51 seconds left in the third quarter.

McPherson’s 27-yard field goal with 10:38 remaining in the game gave Fort Payne a 34-26 lead, but Scottsboro drove 80 yards on 10 plays again. Manning scored from 1 yard out and then ran for the two-point conversion to tie the game at 34-all with 5:35 left. 

Fort Payne drove deep into Scottsboro territory before getting the go-ahead score from Hunter Love on a 12-yard touchdown run with 1:40 left.

On the ensuing drive, Manning completed passes of 5 and 4 yards before throwing a 48-yard pass to Harris, who made a fingertip catch down to the Fort Payne 8-yard line. Manning ran for 5 yards on the next play, but was injured and had to leave the game. Gavin McCrary took the snap on the next play and ran for no gain, and then Bradford was stopped inside the 1-yard line with time running out.

“We got it down the field,” Jacobs said. “Who knows what would’ve happened had Jacob not got hurt. We work Gavin at quarterback. It’s next man up. Doesn’t matter if its left guard, right guard, wideout or quarterback. Got to move forward. We had an opportunity. I don’t know how close it was.” 

› Greg Bell of WWIC Radio 1050 AM contributed to this report.

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