SHARPSBURG -- Etowah did nearly everything needed to take home a win Friday night, but it was not quite enough in the end.
Playing on the road in cold and damp conditions, Etowah lost 20-13 to East Coweta in the first round of the Class AAAAAAA state playoffs.
East Coweta (6-5) scored 14 fourth-quarter points to come from behind and win on its home field. For Etowah (5-6), it seemed a tough loss to swallow after leading 10-0 at halftime and 13-6 at the end of three quarters.
“I feel bad for our kids because they wanted to play another week,” Etowah coach Dave Svehla said. “We obviously didn’t execute very well in the second half, and (East Coweta) took advantage of some big plays and got the momentum. It was a combination of things, and when that happens, that’s how you lose.”
The game could not have started much better for Etowah, which forced East Coweta to a three-and-out on its opening possession. The Eagles then drove down to score on their first possession when Jackson Manns hauled in a 20-yard touchdown pass from Dalton Miller.
Etowah’s defense played one of its best halves of the season in the first two quarters, holding East Coweta to 98 yards and no points. The front seven for Etowah seemed to have a beat on East Coweta’s running game, and senior defensive lineman Raymone Devezin said the team felt it was ready for whatever East Coweta could throw at them.
“We watched a ton of film all week, and our scout team did a great job of preparing us for tonight,” Devezin said. “It was just those big plays in the second half that got us. It’s been a good season, and we’ve got to keep our heads up. I still love my boys.”
Carson Allen connected on a 21-yard field goal late in the second quarter, giving Etowah a 10-0, but the Eagles had a golden opportunity to extend the lead further when East Coweta fumbled on its ensuing possession. Etowah was forced to attempt another field goal just before half, but this one sailed wide.
“We knew (East Coweta) would take some chances on defense in the second half to try to put pressure on us,” Svehla said. “I thought, as well as our defense was playing -- they were lights-out in the first half -- we had a pretty good shot.”
Allen connected on a second field goal, this one from 34 yards out, and Etowah led 13-0 with 6:32 left in the third quarter.
East Coweta drove into Etowah territory on its following possession and the game seemed to turn with an injury. East Coweta quarterback Gabe Gray was carted off the field with an apparent arm injury, and from that point on, the Indians seemed a different team.
Backup quarterback Devin Gelband stepped in and found Amaryion Moss for a touchdown a few plays later. Etowah blocked the extra point, but the momentum seemed to be shifting to East Coweta.
“Etowah is good up front,” East Coweta coach John Small said. “Their defensive line, especially (Devezin), gave us some problems, and then we started to press a little bit. I felt like, when we held them to that missed field goal late in the first half, that was the turning point of the game because we fumbled on our 20-yard line.
“It’s situational football, and our kids understood that because we go through those all year long. Once we got that momentum, we just rode the wave.”
East Coweta held Etowah to 44 yards in the second half and minus-16 yards rushing in the fourth quarter. East Coweta used several chunk-yardage plays in the fourth quarter to move the ball inside Etowah’s 20-yard line, and Jayden Bolton finished twice on short touchdown runs.
Etowah was unable to answer offensively as the East Coweta defensive line pressured Miller nearly every time the senior dropped back to pass.
Miller finished 13-for-28 for 184 yards with one touchdown. Brock Rechsteiner finished with four receptions for a team-high 106 yards, while Manns finished with four receptions for 49 yards and a touchdown.
“It’s just overwhelming,” Miller said. “I’ve played in the Etowah feeder system since I was 6 years old, and now I’m 17, and it’s all coming to an end. In the second half, we just couldn’t finish. We just couldn’t convert.
“Our senior class was different. I mean, we were really close. We’ve grown up playing together, and it’s weird it’s all come to an end.”