PREP FOOTBALL: No. 8 Arab falls to Fort Payne 21-0

Arab QB Aidan Cox (11). (Martha Needham/The Cullman Tribune)

ARAB, Ala. – The eighth-ranked, undefeated Arab Knights looked to keep their perfect record intact against the Fort Payne Wildcats on homecoming night. Unfortunately for the Arab faithful, it was the Wildcats that would get the win as they ended up shutting out the Knights 21-0, handing them their first loss of the season.

Arab started out on defense and forced a three-and-out. The Knights started out throwing the ball on its opening series as Aidan Cox found Drew Puccio for nine yards and a first down. Cox added a 12-yard pass to Brody McCain and a 12-yard strike to Spencer Strickland, which put them at the 48. Cox found Puccio once again for 11 yards and another first down, but a holding call on first down quickly put them behind the chains and were later forced to turn the ball over on downs.

Ft. Payne’s running game got them a first down to start out its series, and a Knight pass interference penalty quickly put the Wildcats at the 43. Ft. Payne picked up a few first downs running the ball during the series and the drive ended with them finding the end zone on a 1-yard run to give them a 7-0 lead with 39 seconds remaining in the first quarter. The Knights looked to answer on its next possession. A huge run by Drake Franklin on third down kept their series alive but were later forced to punt.

The Knights couldn’t slow down Ft. Payne’s running game on its next series. A seven-yard run put the Wildcats at the 23-yard line, but a holding penalty backed them at the 33. Two plays later, they connected on a 24-yard touchdown pass as that gave them a 14-0 lead with 5:16 remaining in the first half. A huge 24-yard pass from Cox to McCain put the Knights at the 46, but on the next play, the Wildcats recovered an Arab fumble. Arab forced a punt and got the ball back at the 29. Cox found Dylan Kirkland and Strickland for nine and 11 yards, respectively, as the Knights found themselves at the 35, but a sack and an incompletion brought the first half to an end as Arab trailed 14-0 at the half.

Each team traded punts to start out the second half. The Knights went three-and-out once again on its next series and Ft. Payne continued to run the ball very effectively as they ripped off runs of 10, 13, and 36 yards during the drive. The 36-yard run put the Wildcats at the 12 and four plays later, a three-yard touchdown run on fourth down gave the Wildcats a 21-0 lead with 3:05 remaining in the third quarter.

Arab looked to get something going offensively, but a holding penalty had them going backwards and were forced to punt. Ft. Payne’s next drive saw them go 14 plays and they milked a lot of time off the clock before punting. The Knights looked to avoid the shutout as Cox found Franklin for six yards and Puccio for 13 more as that gave them a first down, but the drive stalled, and they ended up punting. Ft. Payne drained most of the remaining time off the clock and the Knights ended up falling for the first time this season, 21-0. Cox went 12/24 for 124 yards on the night for Arab. Franklin finished with 43 yards rushing. McCain added 45 yards on three receptions and Puccio ended up with 38 receiving yards on four catches.

The Knights will quickly look to shake off this loss next Friday night in a region game at Crossville.

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