2017 Week 4 (Alabama)
Doing these slightly out of order now. Week Four’s big game was in the town of Guntersville, Alabama. The homestanding Guntersville Wildcats hosted the Etowah Blue Devils at Chorba-Lee Stadium.
With an entire state to choose from, picking a good game for Friday night was a bit difficult. While also trying to make it to a Saturday night game in Kentucky, the northeast corner of the state was the best option. Albertville was my original thought, but the best hotel deal was a few miles northwest in Guntersville.
And I’m glad I did. The town of Guntersville sits at the southwest tip of Lake Guntersville. A 75 mile long lake in the northeast corner of the state along the Tennessee River. Spanning 69k acres, it is Alabama’s largest lake.
The area surrounding the lake is just as impressive. Large lakeside hills and mountains give the area serene backdrop. The town is actually located on three separate points around the tip of the lake. All connected via causeways. The school is located to the southeast, closest to Albertville. Sitting above a small hill overlooking the lake, despite the construction of a large hotel, you can still get a good view of the lake from the upper rows of the home side of the stadium.
As mentioned, there’s two hotels that sit between the highway and the school’s athletic complex. Which made access to the game incredibly easy. And easily made my mind up on which game to attend. Pregame, after a short drive from Montgomery, was a stop at Crawmama’s. A crawfish and general seafood place across the highway from the school. Only open in the afternoons at the end of the week, the place has incredible character. And their crawfish boils are sublime. Made for a great pre-game meal for those in the area.
The stadium itself is situated on a bluff behind the high school. The baseball field and tennis courts ring the large parking lot that fills the void. Along with a large grassy area behind the home stands that acts as overflow. There apparently was a parking fee for those driving in. The stadium’s main entrance was located in the southwest corner, with the field house on the south end providing the exterior space for a ticket window. A huge building, it seemed a bit out of place given the historic nature of the stadium itself.
Chorba-Lee Stadium has character. A large concrete stadium situated on a grassy slope, it’s age is apparent. It’s been well maintained. The top row provides a large walkway and standing area for fans. The visiting side is much shorter, though runs just as far down the sidelines. The natural grass field is in great shape–it is the south with the mild winters and great grass-growing climate–surrounded by a 6-lane track.
To the northwest endzone, is the concession stand and older field house building. Though the stadium does show the strip malls that make up the bulk of the highway leading out of town, the views of the hills and lake are the dominant feature.
Tickets were $7 and programs were the usual $5. These were spiral bound. An expense most schools don’t make. The crowd for the visitors was pretty good and filled most of the away side. The home side dominated the middle of the field and a smattering of people extended to both ends.
The game itself was billed as a great matchup. The two teams had fought in one-point games the last two meetings. Etowah jumped out to a 20-0 lead, while Guntersville had managed only 20 yards of offense the entire first half. A flurry of mistakes and ‘just missed’ passing attempts had them stymied. However, the second half was much more kind, and things worked well offensively. Three touchdowns later, they had posted a 21-20 lead midway through the fourth. However, that was shortlived as they had given Etowah just enough time to take the lead. A long play and a personal foul did them in. Etowah went up 26-21 and Guntersville couldn’t rekindle the offensive output they had managed in the 18 minutes since halftime.
All in all, it was a great game and a good representation of Alabama football. A great venue, a notable team, a great matchup, a comeback, another comeback, and a last second desperate gasp to get the ball back by Guntersville achingly close to a victory yet falling short.
On Thursday before this game, was a stop at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery. The 20,000+ seat stadium hosts all of the Montgomery public schools and regularly must schedule games for Thursday. Given the competition with Alabama and Auburn, Saturday games are essentially unthinkable. Sometimes, games are played at Alabama State’s venue to ease the scheduling congestion.
However, on Thursday it was Sidney Lanier hosting Russell County. The $3 parking across the street, $7 ticket and high security surrounding the stadium belied the fact the home crowd was incredibly small. A beautiful stadium for what it is, it engulfed the small crowd there to see it. The game was projected to be one-sided, and despite Russell County’s matching touchdown to make it 7-7, the Lanier Poets dominated. The final was 51-7 and it really wasn’t that close.
Highlights of the game can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZETUs6XlUn4