FORT PAYNE, Ala. — Gardendale was dominant from start to finish, as the Rockets defeated Fort Payne for the second time this season, this time by a 24-3 score in the first round of the AHSAA Class 6A playoffs.
After getting on the scoreboard with a 34-yard field goal by Seth Reburn seven minutes into the contest, Gardendale took a 10-0 lead on a 4-yard touchdown run by running back Tye Dunklin just seconds into the second quarter.
The Wildcats got their only points on a 37-yard field gola by Evan McPherson with 5:23 to play in the first half.
The Rockets pulled away when Zach Cupps threw to Dylan Oliver for a 16-yard scoring toss later in the first half, then sealed the deal with a 1-yard plunge by DeQua Houston in the third quarter.
Dunklin ran for 133 yards on 21 carries, while Houston gained 90 yards on 13 rushes. Cupps was 9-of-17 for an even 100 yards passing. Austin Hicks caught three passes for 65 yards.
Justin Fillmore led the Gardendale defense with seven solo tackles and two assists. Juan Jackson also had an interception.
The Rockets gained 330 yards total offense, while holding Fort Payne (7-4) to just 71 yards.
It’s the first time Gardendale has made it into the second playoff round since 2006, and that was in Class 5A. The last time the Rockets advanced this far as a 6A team was in 1991.
The Rockets will host Homewood next Friday for their second-round game.
[Edited at 5:30 p.m. Saturday to reflect a change in the location of the second-round game, and also to correct the name of the kicker of Gardendale's field goal from what was originally reported by the Rockets' statistics crew.]