Piedmont takes a break from Class 3A, Region 5 football action Friday night, if playing two-time defending Class 4A state champion Leeds can be considered a break. Leeds (4-1) opened the season with four consecutive wins, averaging more than 35 points a game, before falling to Handley 14-7 last week.
Piedmont coach Steve Smith said the Green Wave had a first-and-goal at the Handley 2-yard line in the fourth quarter but could not score.
“All the suggestions of the demise of Leeds are grossly exaggerated. They’re still really, really, really good,” Smith said. “They’re a typical Leeds team – tons of speed, big linemen on both sides of the ball, very aggressive on defense. All those things are going to be characteristics that people recognize from them.”
Smith said this year’s quarterback, junior Zach Roberts, isn’t the dual threat TaDarryl Marshall was “but may be a little better pure passer.” New head coach Lee Gibson’s offense is more of a spread than former coach Keith Etheredge, now at Pell City, favored.
By Smith’s count, the Green Wave has eight seniors and three juniors in its starting 11 on defense and six seniors and five juniors starting on offense.
“About the only thing I see on their end that kind of holds them back a little bit is they’re starting eight or nine kids both ways, including the linemen,” Smith said, adding that Gibson appears to be “hanging his hat on the ones he can count on.”
Leeds and Piedmont have developed an intense rivalry in recent years. Leeds won twice in 2008 and again in the 2009 regular season but Piedmont’s 2009 state championship team defeated the Green Wave 13-7 in the semifinal round of the 3A playoffs. There were no games in 2010 and 2011. The Bulldogs won in 2012 and 2013. Leeds has captured the last two games.
“I fully expect Leeds to come in with a lot of confidence because they are Leeds. They are the defending champions two times running in 4A,” Smith said. “They’re not like people had suggested that they were. They’re not down by any stretch of the imagination. It’s going to take a good football team to beat them.”
At Pleasant Valley last Friday, Piedmont improved to 5-0 overall and 3-0 in Region 5 with a 48-18 win over the Raiders. The teams traded touchdowns for much of the first quarter. Pleasant Valley won the toss and elected to take the ball. A quarterback sack by Austin Brazier forced a punt. Lee Stanley scored on a 16-yard run with eight minutes on the clock and the first Easton Kirk’s six extra points made it 7-0 Piedmont. The Raiders scored on a 68-yard pass play two minutes later but Cardavion Myers blocked the extra point try and kept the Bulldogs up 7-6.
With two minutes left in the first quarter, quarterback Taylor Hayes scored on an 11-yard run for a 14-6 lead. The third play for the Raiders was a 69-yard touchdown pass and it was 14-12 with 55.6 seconds to go in the first quarter. Stanley added a touchdown for Piedmont on a 38-yard run as the clock expired.
Hayes passed for three touchdowns in the second quarter. The first went to Darien Bossie from six yards away, the second to Brazier from 13 yards out and the third to Brazier again, this time on a 6-yard fade into the end zone with 20.5 seconds left in the first half. Kirk’s final kick hit the crossbar and fell to the ground but Piedmont led 41-12.
The Bulldogs headed in the wrong direction soon after receiving the second half kickoff. A 10-yard holding penalty and two 15-yarders made it first-and-goal Bulldogs from the Pleasant Valley 43. Hayes passed to T.J. Fairs for Piedmont’s final touchdown from there. That ended the night of the starters on offense.
Official Piedmont stats showed Hayes was 18-for-24 passing for 212 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. Fairs had seven catches for 74 yards. Derrick Baer and Darien Bossie each caught three passes Baer’s gained 52 yards and Bossie’s 28 yards. Brazier had the two touchdowns.
Jacob Pfledderer had worked his way into the wide receiver rotation and made two catches for 29 yards but dislocated his elbow on the second reception and may be lost for the season. Smith described Pfledderer as a “team player just starting to come into his own.”
Stanley ran seven times for 104 yards.
“I thought the other night was the best he’s run all year long as far as letting his blocking develop and then cutting off his blocks, hiding behind those big linemen and being patient,” Smith said of Stanley.
Hayes ended with 72 yards on the ground on six carries. Fairs ran three times for 55 yards. Brazier had 18 yards on one carry. Layton New gained 27 yards on eight carries and caught one pass for 10 yards.
In addition to catching two touchdown passes, Brazier had a busy night on defense. He led in tackles with nine. Three of the nine were sacks and a fourth was behind the line. Brazier also broke up a pass. Logan Beadles, back at nose after missing last week, and defensive end Evan Cooper each had eight tackles. Beadles had a sack and another tackle for loss and Cooper made a stop behind the line.
Cobey McFry had two sacks and another tackle behind the line in his seven tackles. Mason Mohon recorded six tackles. Michael Floyd made five stops. Seth Gardner and Myers each had four tackles. Chase Bobbitt, Gavin Kircus, Logan Smith, Matthew Thornton and Kaedon Jenkins each recorded three tackles. Jenkins made one tackle behind the line and broke up a pass. Baer caused a fumble that Jenkins recovered. Christian Doss had two tackles. Carl Myers and Cardavion Myers each had an interception.
Spring Garden takes its high-octane offense and stingy defense on the road Friday. The Panthers travel to Anniston where they will be the homecoming opponent for the Donoho Falcons. The two schools were region opponents in 2012 and 2013 but haven’t played since then. In 2012, Spring Garden won 44-21 at Donoho. Donoho returned the favor in 2013, winning 42-20 at Spring Garden.
Donoho had an open date last week. The Falcons are currently 1-3 after losing a 55-35 shootout to Winterboro on Sept. 9. Spring Garden kept its season record a perfect 4-0 with a 52-6 win over Valley Head on the road last Friday.
Against Valley Head, the Panthers scored seven touchdowns in the first three quarters and led 52-0 when the fourth quarter opened. Dakota Lambert tallied three touchdowns. Quintin Downey and Ben Ivey each scored twice. Each of the three rushed for more than 100 yards.
Lambert ran 11 times for 193 yards against Valley Head. He now has 39 carries for 584 yards on the season. Downy finished with 150 yards on 14 tries, upping his rushing total to 434 yards on 50 carries. Ivey gained 106 yards on eight carries and now has 319 yards on 28 carries for the year.
Several younger players got chances to run the ball against Valley Head. Colby Slayton ran five times for 34 yards. Luke Ivey gained 21 yards on two carries. Wesley Rogers ran three times for eight yards.
Lambert opened the scoring with an 11-yard run. The first of three 2-point conversion runs by Ben Ivey made it 8-0. Ivey scored next on a 16-yard carry and his 2-point run made it 16-0 Panthers. Downey’s 6-yard touchdown carry and Ivey’s third 2-point conversion bumped Spring Garden’s advantage to 24-0 with the game still in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Ivey scored again, this time on a 20-yard run. Kaitlyn Rogers kicked the first of her four consecutive extra points and the Panthers led 31-0. Downey’s 3-yard scoring run made it 38-0 at halftime.
Lambert capped of the scoring for Spring Garden with touchdown runs of seven yards and 39 yards in the third quarter.
On defense, Pjay Smith, Luke Welsh and Lucky Bolen recorded four tackles apiece for the Panthers. Downey and Hunter McCord each had three tackles. Donald Flowers recovered a fumble.
Spring Garden returns to Class 1A, Region 6 play at home on September 30 against Coosa Christian.