2006 Fort Payne Football Team
The 2006 Fort Payne Wildcats are one of the only four unbeaten teams in school history. They are the second team with an unbeaten and untied record. The first team was that of 1935, seventy-one years ago.
Coach Paul Ellis and his staff changed to a spread formation before the season began, after they had determined that they had the material to use this system. They certainly were proven right.
Coach Ellis and his defensive coordinator, Jim Ellis (no relation), instilled this young team with the confidence that they could win with this system. There was only one senior on the offensive side, Randy Posey, and he had not played since the eighth grade. The starting quarterback, Chris McElrath, broke his ankle in the second game of the 2005 season and missed the rest of the year. The leading ground gainer this year, Nick Johnson, missed all of last year after elbow surgery. The injury to McElrath forced freshman quarterback, Slade Smith, into service. That experience helped Smith this year as he threw for 2056 yards and 29 touchdowns. McElrath passed for 242 yards and 6 touchdowns, ran for 164 yards, and caught 34 passes for 460 yards. Nick Johnson gained 753 yards for a 7.4 yard average, while Antwan Appleton gained 732 yards for a 7.5 yard average. Leading receivers were Posey, with 38 catches for 812 yards - 21.37 yards per catch. Johnson had 49 receptions for 745 yards - 15.2 yards for catch. Cody Farmer had eight catches for 168 yards - 21 yards per catch.
These stats would not have been possible had it not been for the offensive line doing a great job. Josh Terry, Lance Henry, Austin Pahnell, Larry McCutcheon, Eric Sims, and Kyle Smith not only opened holes for the runners, they protected the passers.
Despite being outweighed and having to stay on the field longer because of the fast striking offense, the defense performed well, too. Outstanding players on that side of the ball were Gavin Ammons, Jeremy Underwood, Kyle Conkle, Chase Potts, A.J. Spriggs, Sylar Matthews, Blake Smith, Ben Barrontine, Timmy Estep, Jeb Bunch, Will Davis, Will Sparks, Derek Johnson, and Conor McDonough. Potts, Smith, Barrontine, Davis, and McDonough, all had 60 or more solo tackles. The defense gave up 21.8 points per game, but made the big plays when they had to. They had 33 takeaways and scored 5 touchdowns.
Coach Paul Ellis started as an assistant coach at Valley head, and was named head coach in 1993. He felt that he was too young and inexperienced at age 24 to do that job, but it was either that or no job.
He assisted Coach Jerry Elmore at Fort Payne until he took the reins at Section in 1999. Staying there for three years, he carried his team to the playoffs one year, losing in the first round.
Ellis came back to Fort Payne as an assistant under Coach Dale Pruitt. He held that position for three years before moving up to head coach. If you take out the Valley Head year, when he was 1-9, his record is 38-26, with 22 of those wins at Fort Payne.
The Cats won the region championship, and at the end of the regular season were ranked number two in the state. They beat E.B. Erwin in the first round of the playoffs, but lost to Athens in round two when they turned the ball over nine times. Coach Ellis feels that the future looks bright for the Cats, losing only seven starters - one on offense and six on defense.
I wish we had had this much information on the other three unbeaten teams that were featured earlier, but technology for doing that was not available then. We thank Coach Ellis, Superintendent Jim Cunningham, and all of those who provided photographs for these four teams.
The 2006 record is shown below:
|Fort Payne High||41||Plainview||7|
|Fort Payne High||49||Southside||16|
|Fort Payne High||48||Lee||22|
|Fort Payne High||42||Albertville||20|
|Fort Payne High||28||Pinson Valley||27|
|Fort Payne High||23||Etowah||14|
|Fort Payne High||27||Butler||26|
|Fort Payne High||40||Arab||28|
|Fort Payne High||40||Scottsboro||29|
|Fort Payne High||48||Boaz||14|
The 2006 playoff record is shown below.
|Fort Payne High||39||Erwin||32|
|Fort Payne High||7||Athens||41|
View the player photos for some people on the 2006 football team.