The final score of Saturday’s Champions Challenge jamboree in Montgomery against Dadeville wasn’t what Piedmont wanted it to be but there were lots of positive experiences from the game which Dadeville eventually won 14-8.

“There were a lot of guys getting their first meaningful reps the other night. For the defense to play as well as they did against a team of that caliber, I thought was really encouraging,” Bulldogs head coach Steve Smith said prior to practice on Monday.

Smith said the expected his players to be looking toward Friday’s home game against inter-county rival Cherokee County in practice this week, not thinking about Dadeville.

“They always want to win any time we play but they understood it was a jamboree,” Smith said. “We wanted to play a good opponent in it and see where we stood and we did, came up a little short. I don’t look for it to be discussed a whole lot (Monday) to be honest with you. We’ve got a big rivalry game in front of us coming up Friday and that’s what we’ll focus our attention on.”    

The visitors from Centre are largely an unknown commodity. The Warriors did not play a fall jamboree.

“They played a spring game and held their own against a good Handley team. They’ve had a couple of really good junior high teams the past two years and those kids are ninth and tenth-graders now. I know they’re very well coached and have good players. They’ll be a big challenge for us…. We’ll be real excited to see them show up in Piedmont Friday night,” Smith said.

After a scoreless first half, Dadeville got a touchdown run on the final play of the third quarter. With just over eight minutes to play, the Tigers ran for their second score and led 14-0.

Piedmont’s score came two and one-half minutes later when quarterback Tyler Lusk and wide receiver C.J. Savage combined for a 42-yard catch-and-run score. Lusk passed to Austin Brazier for the 2-point conversion.      

The Bulldogs got the three-and-out stop they needed on the ensuing possession and took over at the Dadeville 48-yard line with 4:10 to play. On fourth-and-inches, Lusk followed the surge of his offensive line for a first down at the 38 then completed a 15-yard pass to Dreek Thompson on the next snap. An incomplete pass, a sack, an incompletion and another sack followed and the Bulldogs’ threat ended.

Lusk’s arm provided most of Piedmont’s yardage on offense. He was 8-for-20 for 191 yards despite heavy pressure. The Tigers sacked Lusk seven times for almost 70 yards in losses.   

“I thought Tyler’s play at quarterback was a plus,” Smith noted. “He hung in there and I thought played well despite getting knocked around pretty good.”

Only one starter returned to Piedmont’s offensive line and that unit had difficulty protecting against Dadeville’s pass rush, particularly from the back side.

“They’re only going to get better. Having a game-type situation under our belts, I look for those guys to work hard this week and learn from their mistakes,” Smith said of his offensive linemen. “We did some good things on the offensive side, we’ve just got to sustain them and repeat them numerous times.”  

Piedmont threatened on its first possession as Lusk and Savage combined for a 46-yard gain to the Dadeville 13-yard line on Piedmont’s second snap. Neonta Alexander ran for 12 yards and a first down at the Dadeville 1 but the drive stalled there with three consecutive negative plays. On fourth down from the 8, Lusk’s 25-yard field goal was good but wiped away by a dead ball penalty against the Tigers. His try from 21 yards out was blocked.

With 4:15 to go in the first half, Deven HIncy intercepted a Dadeville pass near midfield. A sack on first down put the Bulldogs at the Piedmont 35. From there, Lusk showed his big arm and Savage displayed his speed by outdistancing a Dadeville defensive back for what looked like a 65-yard touchdown but the score was negated by a holding call made by the referee from behind Lusk. Savage ended with four receptions for 107 yards and Mitchell Bennefield caught three passes for a total of 69 yards.