PREP FOOTBALL: Arab kicks off season with 13-6 win at Albertville

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Arab's Mathew Turnage rushed for 163 yards and a touchdown in the Knights' 13-6 win over Albertville. (Sammy Confer/The Cullman Tribune)

ALBERTVILLE, Ala.- The 2020 high school football is underway, and the Arab Knights traveled to Marshall County to take on the Albertville Aggies Friday night for a game was postponed due to weather Thursday. In a defensive affair, the Knights came out victorious on the road over the Aggies, 13-6.

Arab’s defense got off to a strong start when Hayden O’Reilly picked off an Albertville pass at the 39-yard line. The Knights running game started out strong behind Mathew Turnage and Alex Alcala as they picked up a pair of first downs early in the drive, but it stalled as a mishandled snap was recovered by Albertville. Both defenses played strong and made big plays to keep the game scoreless after one. 

An Aggie punt nailed the Knights back at the 3-yard line. Arab turned to Turnage for some breathing room. On a third down and 18 from the 9, Alcala completed a 25-yard pass to Wes Johnson to keep the drive alive. Later in the drive, Alcala completed another huge third-down pass, this time to Dakota NeSmith, for 22 yards and another huge first down. Turnage finished the amazing drive strong, finding a hole on the left side and tiptoeing his way in for a 37-yard score to put the Knights on the scoreboard with 4:22 remaining in the first half. After back-to-back punts, O’Reilly picked a perfect time to get his second interception of the night right before the half and Arab took a 6-0 lead into the locker room.

The second half started with the Knights punting on their opening possession, but they got the ball right back as Mitchell Duquette recovered an Albertville fumble on the second play of the series. Arab quickly took advantage of that turnover when Alcala found Johnson for 26 yards and he finished the drive with a 13-yard strike to John Brady Bowman to increase the Knights’ lead to 13-0 with 6:21 remaining in the third.

Albertville started its drive strong but Arab quickly stepped up on defense, forcing a huge turnover on downs. The Knights were forced to punt on their next possession and a 25-yard touchdown pass cut the Arab lead to 13-6 with 9:24 remaining in the game. 

Both teams traded punts on their next three possessions before Albertville got the ball back with a little over five minutes to go in the contest. A mixture of the run and pass got Arab out of sync as the Aggies moved the ball inside the 10-yard line, but when the Knights needed to get a stop, they did, stuffing the Albertville runner for no gain on fourth down to help seal the 13-6 win.

Turnage had a huge night on the ground, finishing with 163 yards on 31 carries and a touchdown, while Alcala completed five of 11 for 92 yards and a touchdown. O’Reilly picked off two passes for Arab while Duquette recovered a fumble.

Arab head coach Lee Ozmint was happy to see his team come out with the win, but said he’s just happy to see sports again after a long hiatus due to the coronavirus.

“Oh man, it’s wonderful,” Ozmint said. “This is one of those things where there’s really no losers. We get out here and we can get to play a sport that we love, that we’ve worked year-round to play, and we got a chance to do it tonight. I mean, under the lights, with a big crowd, big stage, beautiful place, two good teams. I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Ozmint was really proud of the performances by Alcala and Turnage. 

“They had huge games tonight,” Ozmint said. “Our quarterback wasn’t our quarterback two weeks ago. Our quarterback is on crutches, so Alex came in. He played H-back and he came in and took the quarterback position. Coach Dardin gave him a quick tutorial for two weeks and he did well. He did well tonight. He made some great plays here tonight. Turnage is a workhorse. He shows up to work every day. He works in the weight room. He works in practice the way he works out here. There’s no off button for him. He shows up, he gets to work, and it’s going to pay off for us.”

Ozmint hopes to see his team build off of this win, but according to him, it’s bigger than that.

“Well, it’s easy to talk about big wins and all of that stuff, but sometimes, you learn more about your character in the good times than in the bad,” Ozmint said. “And if we show up Monday thinking we’re prima donnas, I’m going to have to rattle some cages. But we’ve got leadership. They’ll be ready to show up Monday.” Arab will look to make it 2-0 next week at home against Guntersville.

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