Fort Payne ended Arab’s five-game winning streak to begin the season last Friday, defeating the Knights 21-0.

Playing in front of a standing-room only home crowd on homecoming, the Knights couldn’t stop the Wildcats’ potent running attack, which gained 260 yards on 51 carries. The Knights, ranked No. 8 in 5A coming into the game, couldn’t move the ball like they have all season as they suffered just the second shutout in head coach Lee Ozmint’s four years at Arab.

The silver lining for Arab, now ranked 11th in 5A, is that it was a non-region game, so its 3-0 record in 5A, Region 7 still has it tied with Guntersville atop the region standings. The Wildcats (6-0 overall) defeated Buckhorn 52-21 Friday night.

Fort Payne improved to 4-1. The Wildcats are 1-1 in 6A, Region 8.

“We got our tails handed to us by a very good football team,” Ozmint said right after the game. “There are no excuses, but we are going to get better.”

A few days later, Ozmint and his staff already were looking ahead, as none of the team’s goals were actually affected by last week’s loss. A playoff berth is almost a given, and county and region titles are still there for the taking.

“We still have everything to play for,” Ozmint said.

The region race resumes this week with Arab heading to Crossville on Friday. The Lions bring an 0-6 record into the game and an 0-3 region mark. Still, Ozmint said his team won’t taken them for granted.

“I have a lot of respect for Crossville,” he said. “I have respect for every team we play.”

In this case, current records notwithstanding, the Lions have earned that respect. Crossville leads the all-time series 5-4-2 and won the last meeting between the two teams, 34-25, in 2017.

As for the Fort Payne game, the Wildcats essentially controlled the game from the start, scoring on its second offensive possession when Bennett Blanks scored from the 1 with 39 seconds left in the first quarter to complete an 11-play, 67-yard drive.

In the second quarter, Dax Varnadore passed 24 yards to Slyler Cody on third-and-11 to cap a 12-play, 70-yard drive, making it 14-0. Varnadore was 3-for-3 passing for 37 yards.

With 3:05 left in the third quarter, the Wildcats put it away when Alex Akins ran it in from the 3, capping at 11-play drive. The big play was a 36-yard run by Kaden Dubose on third-and-13 to set up the Wildcats at the Arab 12. They scored four plays later.

Dubose ran the ball 19 times for 120 yards. Arab’s Drake Franklin was held below 100 yards rushing for the first time this season. He ran for 75 yards on 19 carries.

Aidan Cox was 11-for-23 passing for 118 yards. He was injured in the game and his status is unknown for Friday’s game.

Defensively, Josh Roe had six solo stops, including one for a loss, and four assists. Will Caneer had six solo stops and two assists; Logan Silva had four solo tackles and four assists; Hayden O’Reilly had five solo stops and one assist; Patrick Lawler had three solo stops and three assists; and Graydon Isom, Wyatt Lamar, Dylan Morrow, John Ray Wilks and Lawson King all had three solo stops apiece.

Hagan Stewart had two solo stops and two assists. Isom and Caleb Perkins each had two assists. Perkins also had a solo stop.

Fort Payne (4-1 overall, 1-1 in 6A, Region 8, also will resume region action this week against Lee-Huntsville. As of mid-week, that game was still scheduled to be played on Friday.

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