The only damper on Anniston’s comprehensive 54-8 victory was the sight of Troymaine Pope being helped off the field with an apparent knee injury midway through the second quarter.
Bulldogs coach Eddie Bullock, fresh off his first playoff win with Anniston, said that the trainers believed the injury to be an MCL sprain.
“He actually wanted to go back in the game,” Bullock said. “But we didn’t want to take a chance.”
Besides, Pope had already done his part in helping the Bulldogs build a 30-8 lead at the end of the first quarter. He had a touchdown both rushing and receiving despite having two other touchdowns called back by penalties.
Anniston had a rocky start as Dora’s Stevie Woods ran the opening kick back 91 yards for a touchdown. Dora then successfully faked the extra point and had an 8-0 lead after 13 seconds.
That only served to send the message Bullock had been preaching all week.
“I told them Dora has some great athletes on their team,” he said. “The hardest thing to do was to get them to realize records don’t matter at this point in the year.”
From that point, the records did seem to matter. Anniston did whatever it wanted for the remainder of the quarter, as quarterback Josiah Atkins was brilliant.
Atkins completed his first five passes for 99 yards and a touchdown, and had 27 rushing yards and a touchdown in the first quarter.
When Quinton Royal fell on the ball in the end zone, Anniston had scored a rare 30 points in a single quarter.
Perhaps because seeing Pope hobble off the field stunned them, the Bulldogs failed to score for the next two quarters. But Atkins and Rodarius Houston hooked up for a pair of touchdowns and two-point conversions as Anniston exploded for 24 more points in the final quarter.
“That was the purpose of (still playing starters and running normal offense),” Bullock said. “Earlier in the year it was Atkins who went down and we did the same thing — struggled a little bit and then got it back together. But it was good to put it together a little.”
The defense and special teams also scored as Fred Jordan blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone and the defense recorded a safety for the final points.
Meanwhile, Dora presented a compelling exhibit for those who criticize the playoff system in Alabama.
The 3-7 Bulldogs made the playoffs because of their weak region, but ran into a legitimate group of Bulldogs in the first round. Perhaps Dora was a bit unlucky not to recover any of the seven fumbles but the other numbers proved the gulf in class between the teams.
Dora’s longest rush of the night was for three yards.
If Dora had been awarded a point for every yard they gained, they would have won. By two.
Dora had 19 fewer yards than penalty yards committed.
In addition to providing the only score of Dora’s night, Woods gained 53 of his team’s 56 yards.
The rest of the players on his team appeared overmatched and overwhelmed by Anniston’s superior athleticism, which will be tested next week against Oneonta.
Anniston (9-2) defeated Oneonta in a 41-34 thriller to win the Class 4A, Region 6 title.