The season is moving too quickly for teams to get bogged down thinking about big wins or losses.
After winning their opener at Class 7A Albertville the first week, the Arab Knights fell at home to bitter Marshall County rival Guntersville last Thursday, 35-9. The Class 5A Wildcats, officially 2-0, are ranked sixth in the state in this week’s Alabama Sports Writers Association rankings.
But none of that matters this week for either team as region play begins. Guntersville plays its first home game Friday against Class 5A, Region 7 foe Fairview.
The Knights play their second home game and first 6A, Region 7 game against Fort Payne, a team they last played in 2015 when the teams also were part of 6A, Region 7. Arab lost that game 21-14 and is 6-19-2 all-time against this pack of Wildcats.
But again, 2020 being a unique year and football season by any measure, Friday’s game also serves as “Senior Knight” for Arab.
That means cheerleaders Brighten Cody, Kelsee Haynes, Nevaeh Martin, Savanna Kelley and Shelby Isom will be recognized before the game, as will players Alex Alcala, Brodie Cash, Mathew Turnage, Christian Eaton, Bryson Bailey, Brody Bradshaw, Matthew Kensing, Hayden Patterson, Jacob Holland, John Brady Bowman, Bradley Ridgeway, Jesse McCombs, Jase Richey, Jacob Thompson and Cole Davis.
The Knights hope senior leadership will help them bounce back after a loss, much like the team did often last season during coach Lee Ozmint’s first year in charge.
“I know exactly how this team is going to respond,” a confident Ozmint said at the beginning of the week. “I know these kids. They’re going to respond positively, overwhelmingly positively.
“My job is to get them to play that way more consistently.”
Arab was competitive the entire 48 minutes against the Aggies but back-to-back pick-sixes in the second quarter thrown by injured quarterback Alcala essentially put the game away for the Wildcats. Alcala suffered a fairly serious knee injury against Albertville and was a question mark to play against Guntersville until late in the week.
Even with the interceptions (Alcala threw four in all), the game was in doubt until the third quarter clock ran out. By then, it was evident Arab’s offense wasn’t going to get much going against the Wildcats’ defense.
In truth, Arab’s nine first-half points also were gifts. Christian Eaton pounced on a bad punt snap at the 1, and Arab scored on the next play on an Alcala sneak. Later, another bad snap on a punt was recovered in the end zone by Guntersville’s punter for an Arab safety.
“Honestly, if we could’ve established our running game in the second half, we’re in that ballgame,” Ozmint said.
Senior running back Turnage, who rushed for 182 yards in the opener, could manage just 31 yards on 13 carries against Guntersville. Aeron Mitchell gained 8 yards on four carries.
Spencer Strickland caught two passes for 39 yards, John Brady Bowman had one grab for 30 yards, John Wesson Johnson had one catch for 8 yards and Turnage had two catches for 8 yards.
Both defenses played well, or in Arab’s case, played hard, according to Ozmint. In particular, an interception deep in Arab territory by Jacob Cobb, who returned it to almost midfield, kept the score at 28-9.
But the Knights couldn’t take advantage of the change in field position, and third-string QB Aiden Cox was no more effective under center as Alcala.
Ozmint notes that Fort Payne has “a really good tailback” in 6-foot-1, 240-pound Hunter Love.
“He’s big and fast and a returning starter,” he said. And senior QB J.D. Blalock is a returning starter, also.
“The tailback, quarterback and offensive line are their strengths,” Ozmint said.
But the Wildcats really aren’t the coach’s concern.
“We’ve had busted assignments and turnovers the first two weeks – a lack of focus and a lack of discipline – and that’s my fault,” he said. “We’ve got to get better with our assignments and be jealous with the football, and we’ve got to have guys who step up and make a play on offense and defense when we need it.
“Anybody can lead when you’re winning, but it’s hard to lead after a loss. But that’s when you need it the most.
“But I know this. We’re going to work hard and we’re going to adjust and we’re going to be a good football team.”
• Arab JV team
Due to adverse field conditions and, later on, heavy rain, Monday’s home JV game with Guntersville was postponed.
The week before, at Albertville, the JV Knights won 36-14.
Aeron Mitchell had two rushing touchdowns and Brody McCain had two receiving TDs.
• Arab Jr. High
Arab’s seventh and eighth grade teams opened their seasons Tuesday with less-than-stellar results at Discovery Middle in Madison.
The seventh graders put up a good fight but fell 8-6. The eighth graders lost 52-0, snapping a long winning streak for that group.