The unit the Bulldogs defeated by 28 points in the 2009 quarterfinals before defeating Leeds in the semis and ultimately Cordova to capture the state title at Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium passed the ball about 75 percent of the time, Piedmont coach Steve Smith said. That made them easier to literally pick apart as the Bulldogs intercepted the Aggies five times in that game.
Friday they took on a much more balanced bunch.
The No. 2 Aggies gained 278 yards of total offense. They ran the ball 36 of 47 offensive snaps, gaining 185 yards on the ground to knock off Piedmont a victory shy of playing recent rival Leeds at Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium for the state crown in a battle that would’ve pitted the last two seasons’ state champions against each other.
“They ran the ball a lot more this year than they did last year,” Smith said. “They have some good running backs that do a good job running inside for them. They were able to make enough yardage inside to keep us honest.”
Hamilton (14-0) will square off with the Green Wave, also undefeated, in the state title game at next Week’s Super 6 at 11 a.m. Thursday in a battle between the Alabama Sports Writers Association top two teams.
No. 5 Piedmont held standout quarterback Mitch Stults in check for most of the night. The 5-foot-9 signal caller came in the contest with nearly 2,000 yards and 20-plus touchdowns on the season but was limited to just five completions on 11 attempts for 93 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
On a field full of playmakers on both teams, Shaw, a 5-10, 140-pound senior, made the most, scoring three touchdowns in as many ways.
He carried the ball nine times for 72 yards and a touchdown, caught two passes for 72 yards and a score and added another on defense.
“Daniel Shaw played the best football game in his career as a Hamilton Aggie,” Hamilton coach Rodney Stidham. “Daniel’s not blessed with the greatest speed. But he’s always in the right place at the right time and he’s always making plays. He’s what you call a winner.”
Piedmont (12-2) forced Hamilton into a three-and-out on the game’s first possession and then scored on a six-play drive that covered 72 yards and ended on a 39-yard run for a score by senior running back Derrick Jackson. That gave them a 7-0 edge with 7:59 left in the first, following a successful point after by Chris Strott.
Jackson finished with 126 yards on 16 carries to lead all rushers. The Aggies bounced back midway through the second quarter when Sulligent transfer Steven Stewart, who led Hamilton with 109 yards rushing, broke loose on a 74-yard touchdown run with 5:45 to play before the half. However, the Aggies failed on the point after try and the Bulldogs still held a 7-6 lead.
Shaw picked off Strott on Piedmont’s first series of the second half and returned it for 40 yards for a score to put Hamilton ahead 12-7 with 9:53 to play in the third. Bud Coleman added a 2-point conversion on a fake extra point kick to make the score 14-7 in favor of Hamilton.
Stults connected with Shaw for a 54-yard touchdown pass over an outstretched Jamie Major on a third-and-13 play. That put Hamilton up 21-7 with 10:26 to play.
But Piedmont, the Region 6 champions, was far from through dealing.
Strott found Major on a short pass and the 6-0, 200-pound junior did the rest taking it for a 56-yard score down the right sideline to cut the Bulldogs deficit to eight at 21-13. On Hamilton’s next possession, Shaw scored on an 8-yard run to cap a 66-yard drive to increase the Aggies’ lead to 27-13.
“We still felt like were going to win the game,” Smith said. “And that’s a testimony to our kids. Our kids have done a lot for this program. Our senior class has won 45 games. I think that’s the most in the history of the school.”
Strott went 6-for-6 on Piedmont’s next series and found Jamaal Johnson across the middle for a 2-yard touchdown pass and Strott ran in a 2-point conversion to give the Bulldogs a fighting chance down six with 33.9 seconds to play.
However, Piedmont’s attempt at an onside kick failed to travel the necessary 10 yards. Hamilton retained possession and downed the ball on three consecutive plays to end the game.
“A couple of quarterfinals appearances when they were freshman an sophomores, a state championship last year and the semifinals this year.” Smith said of the senior class. “All the sting that’s in the locker room now, I think when they get a chance to reflect back on it and all they’ve been able to accomplish. It’s been remarkable.”
Piedmont’s Colton Allison recorded an interception in the first half. Noah Willis had five catches for 46 yards.
Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575. Follow him on Twitter @birds_word.