By Glendon Poe, Fort Payne Times-Journal
FORT PAYNE – Fort Payne’s defense kept Cherokee County’s potent offense from erupting, and the result was favorable on senior night.
Bennett Blanks rushed for two touchdowns and added a touchdown reception as the Wildcats overpowered the Warriors 35-16 at Wildcat Stadium on Friday night.
Fort Payne (8-2) hosts Decatur, the No. 3 seed from Class 6A, Region 7 for the opening round of the state playoffs next Friday. Decatur beat Scottsboro 17-14 on Friday. The Warriors (8-2) host Corner in the first round of the 4A playoffs.
In Friday’s regular-season finale, the Warriors produced points on both of Fort Payne’s first-half turnovers to pull within 14-9 at intermission.
Fort Payne fumbled on its own 25-yard line, and Cornejo plunged across the goal line for a 1-yard score early in the second quarter. The ball was mishandled on the hold during the ensuing PAT kick attempt and the Wildcats maintained a 7-6 edge.
Malachi Horton picked off a Dax Varnadore pass near midfield with three minutes to play in the half. Fort Payne’s defense held the Warriors to a 25-yard field goal by Will Frampton with seven seconds remaining in the half to narrow the scoring gap to five points.
The Wildcats scored first on their second series of the game. Varnadore hit Marcus Ledford along the left side for a 35-yard scoring strike with 2:53 left in the opening period.
Varnadore connected with Ledford for a 56-yard gain in the second period, and Kaden Dubose ripped off a 14-yard run before Blanks capped the series with a 3-yard rushing touchdown at the 7:46 mark.
Kaden Dubose scored on a 3-yard run midway through the third period to extend Fort Payne’s advantage to 28-9, before Cornejo added his second touchdown on a 1-yard run early in the fourth.
Varnadore threw his second touchdown pass to Blanks for a 17-yard connection with two minutes left in regulation.
Varnadore completed 14 of his 16 pass attempts for 228 yards and two touchdowns. Dubose gained 67 yards on 16 carries with two touchdowns.
Cornejo led the Warriors with 125 yards on 22 carries and two scores. Jack Amos added 79 yards on 21 carries.