“Roswell played a great game defensively. You look at the scoreboard and see that we scored 38 points, but I really feel like their defensive line played a heckuva football game,” Etowah coach Dave Svehla said. “I am proud of our guys for persevering through some adversity. We had some kids get injured (Friday), but that is part of the game.”
The win allowed Etowah (5-0, 2-0 Region 5AAAAAA) to maintain its unbeaten record and match the second-best start in team history. For the Eagles to match their 6-0 mark of 1987, they will have to go on the road next week and beat another unbeaten team in Milton.
Etowah led 17-0 at the half, but Roswell (2-3, 0-2) came alive near the end of the third quarter.
The Hornets decided to get in on the scoring with 8 seconds left in the third on a 4-yard touchdown run by Mechane Slade, cutting the Etowah lead to 17-7. The Hornets’ first touchdown came six plays after their defense forced a fumble.
The Eagles coughed the ball up again on the first play of their next drive to give Roswell the ball in the red zone. James Whitaker connected with Hunter Coleman for a 4-yard touchdown — the first of three between the pair in the fourth quarter — to cut the Etowah lead to 17-14 three plays into the final quarter.
“Our kids are tough and resilient, but we have to start a little quicker on offense,” Roswell coach John Ford said. “I think our kids have unbelievable character. I love the kids in this program. I couldn’t be happier with how they fought and competed out there (Friday).”
The final quarter was a back-and-forth flurry of touchdowns, as the teams scored 50 points and put up 457 yards of total offense. Only one drive in the quarter — besides the final drive — didn’t end with a touchdown on the board.
What was a defensive struggle morphed into a shootout. Roswell went 1-for-2 in the onside kick department.
“The kids just made the plays, and I would like to give all the credit to the kids,” Ford said.
Whitaker didn’t start the game for the Hornets, but came in on the third Roswell possession and went 24-for-40 with 327 yards and four touchdowns. He was 13-for-23 in the fourth quarter with 209 yards and all four touchdowns.
“Roswell’s athletes just made some great plays against us,” Svehla said. “We were in position and they just had some great players make some great plays.”
Etowah’s John Oliver rushed for the game-winning 80-yard touchdown, which increase the Eagles’ lead to 38-29 after Roswell had cut it to 31-29 with a touchdown and a successful 2-point conversion.
Oliver had 131 yards rushing and was 7-for-10 with 123 yards through the air.
Roswell stopped the Eagles on their first two plays of the final drive of the game, but Raishod Devezin sealed the victory with a 23-yard first down run on third-and-10.
Etowah entered the victory formation and the escaped with the win and an unblemished record.
“We are lucky to come away with a win, but I am satisfied with it,” Svehla said. “There is no question we got back on our heels a little bit, but we got a big first down and our offense started to believe a little bit better.