PIEDMONT — Piedmont’s ball carriers have enjoyed plenty of success this season.
Quarterback Taylor Hayes and running back Lee Stanley each have more than 1,600 yards rushing and look poised to have another big game Thursday in the Class 3A state championship game against Mobile Christian.
The catalyst that makes it all go, though, isn’t all the players carrying the ball, but the ones blocking instead.
Piedmont has a very talented and experienced offensive line in Mason Langley, Javian Woods, Cole Chasteen, Krae Keener and Blake Headrick. Davis Young is a sixth player who can play all five positions on the line.
“They’ve done a great job,” head coach Steve Smith said. “We’ve got some kids that are big and strong and they understand what we are trying to do. Coach (Patrick) Walker, our offensive line coach, is the best in the business. He spends a little bit of time with them every day just going over things. They have a great understanding of what we do and they are great kids.”
The Bulldogs have averaged 302 yards per game rushing and have rushed for more than 4,000 yards for the season and 57 touchdowns.
“I think we have the best line in the state,” Hayes said. “It’s easy to run when you don’t get touched for four or five yards down the field. Every game we’ve won this year is because we dominate at the line of scrimmage.”
Stanley has enjoyed a breakout season this year in his first year starting at running back as a junior. He gives the line credit for his success.
“Some of the holes I’ve run through this year are huge,” Stanley said. “You could drive a truck through some of them.”
Woods is a three-year starter on the offensive line. Most of the lineman have that much experience also. The unit has started 30 games together.
“We all have experience,” Woods said. “Most of us are two and three-year starters. It’s just been our experience that really helps us out.”
Langley will get a chance to play in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star game in Montgomery this December.
“He’s been a great leader for us on the offensive line,” Smith said.
This week they’ll face a challenge going up against Mobile Christian, which has a lot of skill players that can make big plays.
Smith said they don’t plan on changing anything going into this game. They plan to rely on their strength, which is the play of the offensive line.
The line is aiming for their best performance of the season on the biggest stage of the year at Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium.
“We’ve played pretty good this year, but we feel like we haven’t played our best yet,” Woods said. “We’re hoping we can play our best at the state championship this week and help lead the team to another championship.”
Handley takes down Region 1: Handley already has a Class 4A, Region 3 championship from this season, but you might as well give the Tigers a Region 1 championship also.
Handley defeated the top three teams in Class 4A, Region 1 — a region that was considered one of the best in the state. The Tigers defeated UMS-Wright in the second round, Thomasville in the quarterfinals and Andalusia last week in the semifinals.
All three teams were ranked in the top six of the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s final prep football rankings.
Handley was used to playing tough teams. The Tigers played in a tough region with Munford and two-time defending state champion Leeds.
Friday they’ll play another tough opponent in Madison Academy, which recently won three state championships in a row in Class 3A.