It was just business as usual for Piedmont football. And while the economy may be suffering nationally, the football business has been good for the Bulldogs.
The win finished an undefeated regular season for Piedmont, the second time in as many years it has accomplished the feat. The Bulldogs have won 31 of their past 32 regular-season games dating back to a 2009 loss to Gulf Shores.
“I don’t take a different approach than we do any other game,” Piedmont coach Steve Smith said. “We play every game to win that game. … Games are too precious and too few and far between. We want to win any game we play.”
If Smith entered this game with caution, he’s got good reason. He’s seen things derail — as recently as last season.
The Bulldogs were in the same situation last year — undefeated, region champs and highly ranked heading into the playoffs. Piedmont was then upset in third round with a narrow 28-21 defeat on the road at Rogers.
“We’ve really been cautioning our kids to play one game at a time,” he said. “We’ll worry about the playoffs when the playoffs get here.
“You can’t take anything for granted.”
With J.B. Pennington at home next week in the playoffs’ first round, Piedmont went on the road Friday night with the intensity it has showed all season.
On the first series, a long Cade Bradley pass set up his own touchdown, a 7-yard run, just 63 seconds into the contest. Piedmont held that lead until 10:32 in the second when Lincoln scored what proved to be its only points against the Bulldogs’ first string.
Shortly thereafter, Piedmont began to add points in bunches, putting the game away before the flag was lowered just before the start of the final quarter.
Piedmont added two more touchdowns before halftime, the first off a 2-yard run from Exavyer Jackson. The second score of the second quarter came the same way as the game’s first — a long pass setting up a short run. This time it was Jackson again from one yard out with just 28 ticks left in the half to make it 20-6.
A two-touchdown lead can be a slim one when the oblong ball bounces funny ways, but the two-score lead quickly turned into five just after the half.
Lincoln turned the ball over three times on its first three possessions of the second half, with Piedmont cashing in on two of those. Dreek Thompson had a 5-yard run with 9:25 left and six minutes later Darnell Jackson went in from 19 yards outs.
Piedmont made up for a rare miscue — turning it over on downs — by forcing Lincoln to punt just before the end of the quarter. C.J. Savage took that 60 yards down the visitors’ sideline, and in all reality, ended the game with 12:41 to go.
“As ugly as it got at times, this doesn’t hurt us,” Herring said. “Playing a team like this will only make us sharper for the playoffs.”
The loss was Lincoln’s third in as many weeks after starting the season 5-2. However, this one — a non-region game — was of little importance other than bragging rights. Lincoln’s playoff destiny is set; the Golden Bears play host to Sardis next week in the opening round of the Class 4A playoffs.
Lincoln added two fourth-quarter touchdowns in the final 8:45, both from Jamario Howard on runs of one and four yards, and tacked on a two-point conversion with each.
“Hats off to Piedmont,” Herring said. “They’re a fun team to play and a fun team to watch.”
Assistant Managing Editor Bran Strickland: 256-235-3590. On Twitter @Bran_Strickland.