It's early November in Marshall County which means it's time for the Guntersville Wildcats and the Albertville Aggies to meet on the gridiron. The two teams squared off Friday night inside Chorba-Lee Stadium in Guntersville.
It was the 105th meeting between the Aggies and Guntersville with the Wildcats leading the series 51-47-6. After a back and forth game to remember, Guntersville added one more win to the series by outlasting the Aggies 24-21.
Guntersville has now beaten Albertville 13 out of the last 16 meetings.
Guntersville head coach Lance Reese also inches closer to the 100-win mark as he is now 78-33 overall.
Guntersville and Albertville entered the game having already clinched a playoff berth in Class 5A and 6A respectively. The Wildcats finished 3rd in Class 5A Region 8 while the Aggies finished 4th in Class 6A Region 8.
Regardless of record or classification, both teams as well as both communities are always ready for this particular game. This Reese made clear in the lead up to the game.
Things started off quickly for Guntersville. The Wildcats received the opening kickoff and in just two plays found the end zone. Guntersville quarterback Zak Burnett took the opening snap for a 20-yard run to set the Wildcats up at midfield. Logan Pate would finish the drive with a 50-yard touchdown run. The extra point was converted by Pablos Rios and Guntersville led 7-0.
Each team would exchange possessions until another point was scored. Albertville would answer the Guntersville touchdown with 2:17 left in the 1st quarter. Aggie's quarterback Ben Allen found the end zone on a 2-yard rush. The converted extra point tied the game at 7-7 going into the 2nd quarter.
The offensive woes continued for both teams throughout most of the 2nd quarter. Neither team could find much footing on offense and with just a little over three minutes left in the 2nd quarter the score remained 7-7.
The Wildcats caught a break after an Albertville special teams mishap. The Aggies set up to punt from near their own goal line when the ball was snapped over the head of Allen. The ball traveled through the back of the end zone resulting in a safety. Guntersville entered the half with a 9-7 lead.
It seemed as if offense wasn't going to be something either team would be able to generate midway through the 3rd quarter. The score remained 9-7 in favor of Guntersville until the Aggies finally broke the stalemate.
Albertville put together a 71-yard drive, which ended in an 8-yard touchdown pass from Allen to Elijah Stallworth with 5:56 left in the 3rd quarter. The Aggies converted the 2-point conversion and took a 15-9 lead.
Guntersville came up with a big answer to the Albertville touchdown right before the start of the 4th quarter. With just 56 seconds left before the end of the 3rd quarter, Burnett found Campbell Leach on a 53-yard touchdown pass. The extra point by Rios put Guntersville back in front 16-15.
Albertville wouldn't go away quietly, however. Allen would throw another touchdown pass with 7:14 left in the game after a lengthy offensive drive. The Aggies attempted a 2-point conversion but the attempt failed. Near the mid way point of the 4th quarter, Albertville led 21-16.
In what seemed like a scene straight out of Friday Night Lights or Varsity Blues, the Wildcats were losing to their biggest rival with just minutes left. It was up to Burnett and the rest of the Guntersville offense to score and walk away with the victory.
The final drive for the Wildcats began on their own 28 yard line after an Albertville punt. Guntersville quickly faced a less than favorable 3rd down and 8 situation. Burnett dropped back, saw nothing downfield and decided to use his legs to get the 1st down. An additional 15-yards was added to the end of the run after the Aggies were flagged for a late hit.
Burnett then found Cooper Davidson for a 10-yard pass completion moving the ball to the Albertville 34-yard line with just over 3 minutes left. The next two plays netted the Wildcats negative two yards, which put them in a tough 3rd and 12 situation. An Albertville pass interference bailed the Wildcats out on 3rd and long and kept the drive alive.
A few plays later, Guntersville was faced with another 3rd down. With just over a minute left, Burnett found Leach in the end zone for the go-ahead score. The Wildcats would go on to convert the 2-point conversion and led the game 24-21.
Not be outdone, the Aggies put together a one-minute drive that had everyone inside Chorba-Lee Stadium on their feet. After several completed passes, the Aggies were on the Guntersville 28 yard line with just seconds left. Allen dropped back for the Aggies, looked for the end zone but Guntersville's Brandon Fussell was there instead. Fussell intercepted the pass and sealed the game for the Wildcats.
On defense for the Wildcats, Fussell recorded two interceptions, Clay Adams led the team in tackles with 12, Miller Kutner had nine tackles and one tackle for a loss. On offense, Burnett completed 12 of 23 passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns. Pate rushed 17 times for 118 yards and Leach hauled in two touchdown passes.
Guntersville finishes the regular season with a 7-2 record. After the game, Reese talked about the victory and season overall.
"I've been a part of 29 of these Albertville and Guntersville games, and I think that's the most exciting one I can remember," he said after the victory. "We struggled on offense tonight, but scored when we had to. We made some adjustments on defense and got some needed stops. All the credit goes to the kids on this one. Both teams really fought hard tonight."
Reese also talked about the improvement made from last year's team to this years.
"A lot of people saw what happened last year and were wondering what happened to the Wildcats," he said. "I think we got it back on track this year. I am so proud of the work from our assistant coaches and players this year. There's no better way to end the season than with a county championship against Albertville and now on to the playoffs."
Guntersville will travel to Hamilton Friday night to take on the 2nd place team from Class 5A Region 7. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m.