Senior signal caller keys win for No. 2 Piedmont
by Nick Birdsong, Star sports writer
Aug 26, 2011 | 3327 views |  0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HOKES BLUFF — Chris Strott isn’t the fastest player on Piedmont’s football team. He’s not the biggest either.

But there’s a reason the senior is the Bulldogs’ undisputed starting quarterback, and never was it more evident than in Thursday’s season opening 21-0 road win over Hokes Bluff.

Strott, 5-foot-10, 170 pounds, finished with 122 yards rushing on 19 carries and a touchdown while completing three of five passes for 36 yards and another score to lead his team to key win in AHSAA Class 3A, Region 6 play.

“Chris is a gamer,” Bulldogs coach Steve Smith said. “He’s another running back taking snaps back there. He does an admirable job throwing the football. But a big part of our offense is the power game; him doing the keepers on the misdirection, keeping them honest.”

Strott won the starting job a year ago after a three-way battle for the spot with Cade Bradley and Jamie Major, following the graduation of former standout Chase Childers, who guided them to the state title in 2009.

“You hate to draw comparisons to people because everybody’s their own unique individual but I see a lot of Chase Childers in Chris,” Smith said. “Neither one of them run with the best form in the world; They always look like they’re falling down, stumbling, bumbling. But they run behind their pads, and they’re extremely strong kids.

“Chris is an extremely strong kid. He works hard in the weight room. As that game went on tonight when he would make that contact, he’d fall forward for another 2 or 3 yards. That’s big when you’ve got that threat in the backfield.”

Thursday night, he looked every bit the grizzled veteran, giving his team exactly what they needed exactly when they needed it.

He converted third downs on four occasions and led the Bulldogs to touchdowns on both opening and final drives of the first half as they built a 13-0 lead.

He opened the game by leading the Bulldogs 63 yards on a masterful 12-play drive to give his team an early 7-0 lead after he chipped in the point after attempt with his right leg. He had five carries for 34 yards in the drive, including a crucial 10-yard pickup on a fourth-and-1 from the Eagles’ 31. He capped off the effort with a 1-yard plunge with 5:30 to go in the first.

“We were fired up before the game,” Strott said. “Once we got that first touchdown there was nothing to be held back. We’ve been practicing since the summer, and we’ve been waiting for this game.

“ ... we all wanted to come out here and show people that we’re the team we’re used to being.”

No. 2 Piedmont (1-0) got the ball at the Hokes Bluff 47 with 4:21 to play before the half. A 14-yard gainer by junior Sarandon Dunbar followed by a 15-yard run by Strott got the Bulldogs in the red zone quickly.

Those runs eventually set up Strott’s 4-yard touchdown pass on an alley-oop-style lob to 6-foot-6 senior receiver Sloan Garner with just 20 seconds remaining in the first half.

In the second half, Piedmont’s defensive line was in Hokes Bluff’s backfield as much as running backs and wreaked havoc all night. Hokes Bluff gained allowing just 85 yards on the ground and forcing a pair of turnovers.

“We just have a lot of depth,” said defensive tackle Marquez Gamble. “We’ve got guys who can come in when other guys are tired and just go hard. Our coaches told us to ‘Lock down’ at halftime, for us to get to the quarterback, disturb him, make him scared and make plays.”

Sacks by Exavyer Jackson and Jaylan Johnson ended Hokes Bluff drives in the second half, and the Eagles (0-1) never made it beyond the Bulldogs’ 28.

Garner faked a reverse to Landon Pruitt on a punt return, a play they set up during the first half, and high-tailed it down the sideline for a 43-yard punt return to set up Major’s 18-yard run with 11:08 to play in the fourth, for the game’s final score.

“Our offensive line and defensive line, I thought, controlled the game,” Smith said. “When you can win the line of scrimmage, you’ve got a chance to beat anybody.

“We came in and beat a good playoff caliber team tonight in their home stadium, and I’m tickled to death by the effort our guys gave.”

Dunbar finished with 45 yards on eight carries followed by Dreke Thompson’s 40 on 7 and Major added 24 yards while toting it just four times.

Piedmont will host Susan Moore in its newly-renovated Field of Champions, while Hokes Bluff travels to Saks.

Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575. Follow him on Twitter @birds_word.

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Senior signal caller keys win for No. 2 Piedmont by Nick Birdsong, Star sports writer

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