The Scottsboro football team was unable to knock out a Class 5A heavyweight Friday night.
The undefeated Class 5A No. 2-ranked Leeds was too much for the visiting Wildcats in the second round of the AHSAA state playoffs.
“We knew it was gonna be a fistfight. Their punches were just a bit stronger than ours,” said Scottsboro head coach Cris Bell.
Despite the loss, Bell said this season was a “big step” in making Scottsboro (7-5) a perennial playoff contender.
“We’re probably an off-season away from really being able to compete with a team that caliber,” said Bell. “This was a big step, but we have to build on it. This offseason is gonna be critical. We’ll see how big a step we take next year.”
Scottsboro gained a big chunk of momentum on the first play of the game. Druw Smith made a diving interception over the middle of the field, giving Scottsboro the ball in plus territory. Thomas Rackler got the Wildcats inside the red zone two plays later thanks to a 27-yard run. However, the momentum quickly shifted. An illegal shift penalty and three plays resulting in short gains and Scottsboro eventually missed a 37-yard field goal attempt. Bell said that drive was “indicative” of how the rest of the game would go.
“The kids were nervous,” said Bell. “We had a great week of practice, we were ready to play, but it’s another thing when the lights come on and the butterflies hit. These kids haven’t been in that position before. Next time we’re in it, it won’t be as much of a surprise.”
Leeds (11-0) took advantage of Scottsboro’s missed opportunity, driving the ball 80 yards on 11 plays for a score. Conner Nelson’s 7-yard touchdown run was set up by his 16-yard reception on third down, and his 31-yard reception the play before the score. Jackson Arthur made the first of his five point afters, and Leeds led 7-0 after the first quarter.
Leeds ran seven plays in the second quarter and scored 14 points. Senior quarterback Jared Latta scored from 4 yards out early in the quarter. Scottsboro followed the score with a 13-play scoring drive that took up nearly seven minutes. After driving inside the red zone, Scottsboro was forced to try another field goal, as Cole Raeuchle connecting on a 31-yard attempt to put Scottsboro on the board. Leeds took less than two minutes to answer. On the third play of the possession, CJ Douglas took the reverse 78-yards untouched to the end zone with 1:46 left in the half. Leeds led 21-3 at halftime.
Scottsboro opened the second half with a 12-play, 79-yard touchdown drive that lasted 7:07. Quarterback Jake Jones converted three third downs on the drive, setting up his 22-yard touchdown run. Bell said he was proud of the way his team came out and competed in the second half.
Scottsboro had a chance to swing momentum on the next Leeds possession. After an illegal shift, the Green Wave faced a third down-and-8, but Latta found a wide open Jaelyn Felder down the sideline for a 51-yard gain. Jeremiah Hunter ran in a 20-yard touchdown on the next play. Nelson would score again late in the game.
Bell said the game gave Scottsboro’s young players “quality experience.”
“Everything for these guys is relatively new. When Scottsboro made the second round in 2019, these seniors were freshmen. They didn’t really get to play. They were along for the ride. We’ve got a lot of young kids. We start two seniors on offense and three on defense. We’ve got a lot of guys coming back. Many of whom now have quality experience,” said Bell.
Jones led the Scottsboro offense with 89 yards rushing and a touchdown on 15 carries. The Wildcats finished the game with 170 total yards of offense.